A view of Philip James de Loutherbourg’s Eidophusikon; at left a man bowing to a woman, to right figures seated on a bench in the foreground, watching a scene titled ’Satan Arraying his Troops on the Banks of a Fiery Lake, with the Raising of the Palace of Pandemonium’ during a performance of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” on a stage labelled EIDOPHUSIKON in a cartouche above. c.1782

Drawn  c. 1782 by Edward Francis Burney (printmaker; draughtsman; British; 1760 - 1848)

Pen and grey ink and grey wash, with watercolour

The Eidophusikon (Greek: Ειδωφυσικον) was a piece of art, no longer extant, created by 18th century English painter Philip James de Loutherbourg. It opened in Leicester Square in February 1781.

Described by the media of his day as “Moving Pictures, representing Phenomena of Nature”, the Eidophusikon can be considered an early form of movie making. The effect was achieved by mirrors and pulleys.

The Eidophusikon opened in February 1781 in Lisle Street, Leicester Square and held up to 130 people, who paid 5 shillings entrance. The performance consisted of changes of scenes accompanied by coloured light effects and vocal and instrumental music. This particular scene from ’Paradise Lost’ was first shown on 31 January 1782 and there is a detailed description  by W. H. Pyne in “Wine and Walnuts”.

© The British Museum


In 2005, a small and eclectic team at the Australian National University undertook a re-imagining of 18th century painter and scenographer Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg’s Eidophusikon. His radical theatre employed a unique visual technology which included controlled lighting, clockwork automata, 3-dimensional models, and an accompanying soundscape. The effect was unlike anything the audience had previously encountered, convincing to the point that during the recreation of a torrential storm wrecking a ship at sea, one of the audience, a young artist called William Pyne, feels he is actually there: he later says he had to stop himself from crying out hoarsely in terror.

Eidophusikon Re-imagined (via)

Elephant Paint
Jack Hardwicke 

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