Baroque Explorations

“Baroque Explorations” is a blog about my research into 17th and 18th century life. For my blog on (surviving) the writing life, click here. For either blog, if you subscribe—see lower left—you will be sent new posts. (I promise that your inbox will not be flooded.) Quote of the moment: “The future is the past, returning through another gate.”  —from a poem by Victoria Chang

Phantasmagoria: the first horror picture show

1

I have been doing quite a bit of research into Phantasmagorie for the Young Adult novel I’m writing about Josephine’s daughter Hortense.

Phantasmagoria was an extremely popular “show” put on for both children and adults in France after the French Revolution, featuring the appearance of ghouls, ghosts, spectres and apparitions.

Announcement

It was shown in other countries of Europe, but it was by far most popular in France, where so many had lost loved ones during the Terror, and where, apparently, a hunger for contact with the afterlife was strong.

1

Etienne-Gaspard Robertson (1763 – 1837) was the mastermind behind these productions. His first French exhibition of “Fantasmagorie” was at the Pavillon de l’Echiquier in Paris. He later staged it in the abandoned chapel of a Capuchin monastery near the Palace Vendome.

Camera

Robertson devised a double-lens lantern on wheels to create his ghostly effect, an invention which is considered the predecessor of the motion-picture camera. (In 1799 he got a patent for this camera, calling it a Fantoscope.)

smoke_spectres

To create the shadow play, Robertson used smoke, huge sheets of glass, mirrors, and several mobile lanterns. He would project from below the stage, and the hidden movement of a lantern created the illusion of motion. He would change the position of the lens to show a figure growing larger (and apparently closer), yet remaining in sharp focus. He also used rear projection, and projection onto gauze coated with wax, ironed to give a translucent appearance.

The purpose of the show was to terrify the audience—and it succeeded. It could well be considered the forefather of today’s horror movie.


Much of this information is from The History of the Discovery of Cinematography by Paul Burns, which unfortunately is not available on-line at this time.

For excellent documents, see The Richard Balzer Collection.

For a bibliography of books related to the history of cinematography, click this link.

For a full programme: Fantasmagorie de Robertson, Cour des Capucines, près la place Vendôme.

Robertson describes some of his phantasmagoria in his Mémoires.

(Phantasmagoria is not to be confused, by the way, with the 1995 interactive video game: Phantasmagoria!)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Phantasmagoria: the first horror picture show

I have been doing quite a bit of research into Phantasmagorie for the Young Adult novel I'm writing about Josephine's daughter Hortense. Phantasmagoria was an extremely popular "show" put on for both children and adults in France after the French Revolution, featuring...

read more

“Oh poo!” you say?

As I've no doubt mentioned before, I'm a big fan of Renaissance magazine. I devour every issue as soon as it arrives. It's largely intended for devotees of living history, specifically those who participate in Renaissance fairs. That aspect of the publication doesn't...

read more

Happy April Fools’ Day … or is it April Fish Day?

What is the history of April Fools' Day? A reference to April Fools' Day pranks has been found as early as 1539, in a comical poem by Flemish writer Eduard De Dene. Over a century later, in 1686, John Aubrey of England noted "Fooles holy day" observed on April 1st. At...

read more
sandraphoto

Never miss a blog post.

Would you like notification sent to you by email? (You may always unsubscribe.)

House of books & dreams

Imagine a little house—or, rather, more properly, a two-story reading room—containing thousands of books. Imagine this house on the outskirts of Killaloe, a rural village of six hundred in northern Ontario. Amazing. I had the pleasure of visiting "Love's Healing...

read more

Like wild! In the pink! On final stage revision …

I started writing this post six months ago, back when The Game of Hope was titled Moonsick. As part of the final check, then, I was looking for "legal" and "illegal" words—that is, words that didn't exist in 1800. Here are the words and phrases I was surprised to...

read more

A newsletter, finally!

I'm about to send out a newsletter — my first in six months! I've been MIA here on this blog, as well, the result of moving into a house still under construction, all the while working to finish my next novel, THE GAME OF HOPE. Those of you who are already signed up...

read more

Trying to write in 2017 …

I sent draft 9.8 of The Game of Hope to my editor – a partial deadline met, which is always a wonderful feeling. Right now I'm organizing my beta-reader and consultant feedback notes and making further changes. The final-final draft is due in only two-and-a-half...

read more

Phantasmagoria: the first horror picture show

I have been doing quite a bit of research into Phantasmagorie for the Young Adult novel I'm writing about Josephine's daughter Hortense. Phantasmagoria was an extremely popular "show" put on for both children and adults in France after the French Revolution, featuring...

read more

4 Formulas for Figuring out a Story

Figuring out a novel’s “elevator pitch” — the summation of a story in a sentence or two — is invariably difficult for novelists, at least it is for me. My mind does not lend itself to reductions. I’m more of the expanding type. (Not an asset.) These 4 formulas — which...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This