|Monday December 09, 2013||Bill Douglas Centre > Virtual Exhibitions|
Virtual Exhibitions > Optical Entertainments > Praxinoscope
Emile Reynaud, Paris, 1877
Emile Reynaud, a skilled Parisian engineer, developed a number of optical devices in the later 19th century which gave the illusion of moving images. One of his most successful commercially-produced items was the Praxinoscope of 1877, which refined the long-established Zoetrope or 'Wheel of Life' using mirrors rather than slots to give brief flashes of a sequence of images in a rotating drum, which the 'persistence of vision' effect would merge into an almost-continuous 'moving' image. The shade at the top of the instrument covered a candle.
Emile Reynaud, Paris, 1879
The basic optical and mechanical components of the Praxinoscope Théatre were the same as the Praxinoscope, but by placing them in a box with a scenic background and set of static mirrors it was possible to show the moving figure against an imitation theatrical scene. The viewer looked through the small hole in the box lid, and by spinning the drum could see its moving image reflected as though part of the scene shown in the interchangeable background card located just below the viewing hole. The depiction not only of movement, but movement in a narrative context, was an important aspiration of 19th-century optical technology, reflected in different ways across a wide range of optical devices.
The Old Library, The University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, Devon, UK EX4 4SB
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