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Museum of Cinema-Tomàs Mallol Collection

The enchantment of a lamp. The Magic Lantern

Display 'The enchantment of a lamp'. Biunial magic lantern (circa 1880). Photo: MdC.

Display "The enchantment of a lamp". Biunial magic lantern (circa 1880). Photo: MdC.

Two hundred years before cinema was invented, the magic lantern projected images for the first time, whether to entertain, inform or as a teaching tool.

The magic lantern, which enjoyed great popularity especially during the 19th century, is the clear predecessor of cinema as a technical and a visual spectacle. It projects painted images on a glass plate, invented in the mid-17th century by Christian Huygens. Sometimes this glass plate is mechanised, which allows the projected images to be animated with a rudimentary movement.

The phantasmagoria show deserves special attention. The show was a magic lantern projection of great technical complexity carried out mainly in the late 18th century and the first third of the 19th century.


04. The magic lantern

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<p>Magic lantern for phantasmagoria shows (circa 1850) Photo: J.M. Oliveras.</p>
Magic Lantern for Phantasmagor
Magic Lantern for Phantasmagoria Shows
<p>The glass plate of a magic lantern used for phantasmagoria shows "T&ecirc;te de mostre &agrave; langue rouge" (circa 1800-1850). Photo: J.M. Oliveras.</p>
The Glass Plate of a Magic Lan
The Glass Plate of a Magic Lantern
<p>Double lens magic lantern, Butcher &amp; Sons Ltd. Biunial, Great Britain, c. 1880</p>
Double lens magic lantern
Double lens magic lantern
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