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Sedan-Panorama (Werner, Anton von), 1883

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physiological terms—very similar to contemporary discussion about simulator sickness. Suspicions were also voiced that the illusion might permanently impair the capacity for perceiving reality.[11] The military establishment and politicians saw this differently: both Napoleon and Admiral Lord Nelson quickly recognized the medium's suggestive potential for influencing the masses. Bonaparte's plan, however, to make his victories permanently available to the public in eight rotundas in the park at Versailles did not become a reality.

The panorama and its precursors I: The Sedan panorama

In Germany, the ‹dark side› of the panorama and with it the concept of immersion reached its zenith considerably later: after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871. Paradigmatic for this is Anton von Werner's «The Battle of Sedan,» undoubtedly the most expensive picture of its time and viewed by millions.[12] The gigantic canvas measured 1725 m2 and the picture brought «the military hour that the empire was born,» as the official jargon put it, to Berlin's Alexanderplatz.


The opening ceremony in 1883, on the anniversary of the Battle of Sedan, was a political event, attended by the Kaiser, Bismarck, Moltke, and practically the entire power elite, and was front-page news in all the major newspapers the next day. In front of the photorealistic battle painting, which presented the German aggressors as defenders, was a ‹faux terrain›—a space with three-dimensional objects, such as bushes, boulders and fieldwork tools, as well as real weapons and cardboard figures. Rousing marching music from an orchestrion and the compelling appeal of the soldier's perspective additionally enhanced the involvement of the observer. From all directions, this image apparatus was concentrated and fixed physiologically on the observer with the precision of photorealistic illusionism. In this way, the Sedan panorama represented the state of the art of contemporary technical skill in the art of illusion and knowledge of the physiology of sensory perception, as formulated by Hermann von Helmholtz in a series of lectures «On the Relation of Optics to Painting,» 1871.[13] For us today, whose viewing habits are so fundamentally different from those of the nineteenth century, it is almost

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