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Before the advent of film, Victorians relied on a more magical form of entertainment -- Magic Lanterns.
Invented in the 1650s, Magic Lanterns are a simple form of image projector utilizing a limelight and hand painted glass slides. These glass slides would be manipulated by a lanternist for effect and to create movement -- and sometimes the appearance of ghosts!
By the end of the 19th and early 20th century, Magic Lanterns were in homes, schools, fraternal lodges, churches and theaters as a regular part of home and public entertainment. They even began to make smaller models for children to use.
This beautifully hand painted glass slide is from the 1890s, during the heyday of the Magic Lantern. It is part of a series beautifully illustrating John Milton's epic 10-book poem, "Paradise Lost."
Published in the 17th century, "Paradise Lost" depicts the biblical story of the Fall of Man, beginning with the defeat of Satan and the other fallen angels and their banishment to Hell. This monumental masterpiece, written completely through dictation as Milton had lost his vision in 1652, helped solidify him as one of the greatest English poets of all time.
Illustrated by famed French artist, Gustave Doré, this wood-mounted slide is from Book 1 of the saga and bears a description that reads, "Satan calls his hosts to action" on a tattered paper label on the side.
You don't need a lantern to appreciate Magic Lantern slides, just position this piece in front of any light source and enjoy your new mini work of art!
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