Shadow Plays: Virtual Realities in an Analog World

History at a Glance: The Garibaldi Panorama: ’Round the World in Two Hours

’Round the World in Two Hours

Here you may range the world from pole to pole/ Increase your knowledge and delight your soul/ Travel all nations and inform your sense/ With ease and safety, at a small expense.

—Pull bill for J. J. Story’s ’Round the World

A distinctive feature of the moving panorama is to provide “global glimpses for local realities” through virtual travel.65 The moving panoramas authored by J. J. Story provide two varieties of virtual travel: As an example of “war tourism,” the Garibaldi panorama takes its spectators on an adventurous military expedition with the “Hero of Two Worlds,” covering over 32,000 miles of the Earth’s surface. Story’s lost grand panorama, “’Round the World,” promised to take its viewers on a cruise around the globe in a couple of hours (fig. 21).66 If the Garibaldi panorama illustrates the birth of a nation as an example of infotainment, “‘Round the World” surveys three continents as an example of edutainment, embodying a kind of imperial pedagogy.

As shown in many venues around the UK, from November 1865 to January 1885, Story’s grand panorama was a precursor of the Poole Brothers’ myriorama, introduced in the 1880s.67 As Erkki Huhtamo has written: “Most of the Poole panoramas were extensive world tours that began and ended in England, reflecting nationalistic ideology that saw Britain as the nexus of the world.”68 Painted on “a colossal length of canvas” as the four-page pulling bill acquired by the Brown library proclaims (no actual dimensions are provided), “divided into two large sections, forming a series of 72 views, brilliantly illuminated,” Story’s grand panorama is an embodiment of the colonial gaze.69 The “Programme of the Route and Scenery” claims it is the only panorama of a world tour shown at the time in England. The various stages of the journey were “carefully constructed” and dramatized under the guide of illustrious travelers, explorers, or mariners. The “tourists” sailed virtually from the Tower of London down the Thames aboard the steamer Alexandra. Entering the open ocean, they sailed down the west coast of Africa where they met up with the pioneer missionary explorer David Livingstone and followed him, on a virtual canoe, “on his great journey through the vast expanse of central Africa,” all the way to the “Stupendous Cataracts” of Victoria Falls. As we shall see, this appearance of Dr. Livingstone as a tour guide provides a tantalizing link between Story’s two panoramas.

The virtual journey around the world continued up the Nile, with an archaeological tour of the pyramids of Egypt, followed by a visit to the Holy Sepulchre, then on to India and China, visiting the Great Wall and “the splendid dioramic view of a Buddhist Temple Cave,” where the first leg came to a close. Panoramic virtual travel reflects a symbolic appropriation of the world, turned into (moving) images of both nature and culture. After a ten-minute intermission, which would have allowed the panorama to be turned over, the second leg of the journey began with a typhoon in the China seas (which suggest a kind of Eidophusikon display, complete with special effects). After a stopover in Japan, to admire “the singular customs” of a Japanese lady at her toilet, “bathing in the open street”—a recurring Orientalist trope—the travelers are taken on a dogsled trip across Siberia and the Northwest Passage, on to upper California, with its “mammoth trees,” then down to the Great Yosemite Valley and the “Salt Lake of the Mormons.” Virtual tourists are treated to magnificent views of the Rocky Mountains and soon find themselves among the “colorful” peoples of the central prairies, admiring “Indian sepulchers at Cowlitz River,” and even witnessing a “Deadly Combat with a Bear.” Finally, they reached the Falls of Niagara, Quebec, and Lake Champlain. The grand tour ended with a “Splendid View of the Harbour of New York.”

It is telling that the voyage began in England and ended in New York, moving eastward from the old to the new world. In addition to the extraordinary geographic reach of the panorama, the pull bill also extols the aesthetic quality of the images. “The scenes,” we read, “are beautifully painted on canvas by J. J. Story, Artist and Proprietor, the whole series painted from drawings of the various places delineated,” which implicitly suggests that drawings were originally made on-site, a claim typical of the medium. In the absence of the panorama itself, we cannot be totally sure about its visual sources. Yet, “a search through the volumes written by the various authors [named in the description] reveals illustrations that match the titles of the scenes in the panorama exactly, and it would be entirely possible to recreate the lost panorama.”70 A link to contemporary illustrated news, as in the case of the Garibaldi panorama, is most likely: for example, a last-minute addition of scenes from “The War in Abyssinia,” painted in haste and added after early tours, “from sketches taken on the spot by major Baigrie,” confirms the reference to current news.71 Yet, a pedagogical intent inspires the virtual journey: a long list of well-known “authorities” (in addition to Dr. Livingstone) guarantees the accuracy of the information provided, prominent among them scientists like Baron Humboldt, Professor Darwin, and Lord Elgin (the “discoverer” of the “Elgin marbles” exhibited at the British Museum, as discussed in the previous chapter). All this information is packed into a lecture which included:

ethnology, physical geography, animal and vegetable life, manners and customs, history, natural and artificial products, religious creeds and superstitions, climatology and geology, volcanic and atmospheric phenomena...forming a series of illustrated readings from the Great Book of Nature, which is closed and unknown to millions in this country.72

This accurate and realistic encyclopedic spectacle, however, was crowned by illusionistic effects, what we may call a phantasmagoria, a perfect panoramic rendition of the day-to-night effect which, as we have seen in Chapter 1, was also the amazing special effect provided by the mondo nuovo:

a grand dioramic view of the Crypt of the Holy Sepulchre, presenting two distinct effects, as if produced by enchantment: First the holy place is seen in daylight. Second, Night throws her deep shadows across the Sepulchre: the lamps and candles in front of the magnificent altar are lighted, the monks and pilgrims appear at their devotion, the whole place is brilliantly illuminated, producing a scene the most dazzling and gorgeous in appearance.

The limerick from the pull bill quoted above as an epigraph sums up the educational and imaginative experience that the modest admission price could buy for the spectators, virtual tourists, and pilgrims. J. J. Story clearly found the way to please his provincial audiences, as Belzoni had succeeded in capturing the imagination of his metropolitan patrons. There is no doubt that, because of its greater variety and scope, the “’Round the World” panorama could reach a wider, if not more appreciative, audience than the Garibaldi panorama shown only in Derby and Nottingham: the “grand tour” formula was more reliable than political or war tourism, once the Garibaldi moment waned. However, as mentioned earlier, there is a link between the two panoramas.

The panorama as Brown University received it includes fifty-four scenes, five more than the version showed in Derby and Nottingham. Four of these five added scenes refer to a battle that took place two years later, in the summer of 1862, at Aspromonte in the southern region of Calabria, when Garibaldi was famously wounded in the leg. Between the triumphal entry into Naples (scene 49) and the sequel of Aspromonte, however, one additional tableau depicts what looks like a lion hunting scene against the backdrop of an exotic landscape: an African savannah, with palm trees, gazelles, and scantily dressed natives (fig. 22). At first, this puzzling scene could be taken as a reference to Garibaldi, often portrayed as a lion-headed figure—one of his nicknames was indeed “the lion of Caprera.” In fact, this scene has nothing to do with Garibaldi but, as Peter Harrington has demonstrated, it is inspired by another contemporary hero whom we have already encountered: the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone. Indeed, the source for this scene is an article published in the Illustrated London News a few years earlier on November 7, 1857.73 The lion attack, which almost cost Livingstone his life, became one of the most lavishly illustrated episodes from the explorer’s adventures, across many media—from prints and paintings to public monuments and magic lantern slides (fig. 23). Perhaps, as he was completing his Garibaldi panorama, Story was already thinking about a Livingstone panorama and, as Harrington speculates, might have offered the scene as “a trailer” for his upcoming attraction.74 Whatever the reason, the transition is also meaningful for us, as it foreshadows the broadening of Story’s panoramic horizons: from Garibaldi, the hero of the two worlds, to David Livingstone, Africa’s trailblazer—the virtual journey goes global.

However, before Story abandoned Garibaldi as his panoramic superhero, he produced a last installment of his legendary life. As mentioned earlier, of the five scenes, including the lion-hunting scene, added to the version of the panorama that circulated between December 1860 and February 1861, four represent the battle that took place on August 28–29, 1862, remembered as the Day of Aspromonte. The battle and Garibaldi’s wound caused a storm in the amphitheater of international media, thus it is not surprising that Story decided to resume work on the panorama: he had some canvas left, and the news coming from Italy convinced him to abandon David Livingstone to his African destiny and return once again to the Hero of Two Worlds. As we shall see, this “sequel” to Garibaldi’s story also provides a clue to the panorama’s journey to America.

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