Representing Paris: History and Actuality at the London Panoramas

This paper explores questions related to the representation of history and actuality, in all its possible senses, at the popular panoramas of the early nineteenth century. Using London and Paris as central examples (both were key cities for the development of the panorama), it considers the importance of the panorama as a medium for conveying certain kinds of visual knowledge—amenable to new regimes of description—and as a form closely linked to the self-representation of the urban metropolis. Focusing also on the relationship between image and text, between the panoramic images and the pamphlets that accompanied them, it addresses the problematic status of the popular appeal of historical and contemporary events as subjects for the panorama—subjects that engaged both a powerful desire to see and know things as they are (or were) and an equally powerful element of delusory (or illusory) representation.