A cyclorama is a panoramic painting on the inside of a cylindrical platform, designed to provide a viewer standing in the middle of the cylinder with a 360° view of the painting. The intended effect is to make a viewer, surrounded by the panoramic image, feel as if they were standing in the midst of a historic event or famous place.
"Cyclorama" can also refer to the building designed to show the panoramic painting (pictured).
Panoramas were invented by Irishman Robert Barker[disambiguation needed ], who wanted to find a way to capture the panoramic view from Calton Hill in central Edinburgh, Scotland. He subsequently opened his first cyclorama building in Edinburgh in 1787.
Cycloramas were very popular in the late 19th century. The most popular traveled from city to city to provide local entertainment — much like a modern movie. As the viewers stood in the center of the painting, there would often be music and a narrator telling the story of the event depicted. Sometimes dioramas were constructed in the foreground to provide additional realism to the cyclorama. Circular and hexagonal-shaped buildings were constructed in almost every major US and European city to provide a viewing space for the cycloramas. For example, a 360° depiction of the land and naval battles of Vicksburg was completed and first exhibited in Paris. This work by Lucien-Pierre Sergent and Joseph Bertrand traveled to New York, Chicago and San Francisco and Tokyo. Hundreds of cycloramas were produced; however, only about thirty survive.
An extension of this concept into motion pictures was pioneered with the invention of the Cinéorama that debuted at the 1900 Paris Exposition. These evolved into such formats as IMAX and Circle-Vision 360° as can be seen Epcot's Reflections of China.
The 1899 dramatisation of the novel Ben Hur was a Broadway smash hit. The main spectacle was the use of a live chariot race using real horses and real chariots set against a cyclorama. It ran for 21 years, and was seen by over 20 million people.  The Era's drama critic detailed how it was achieved by "four great cradles, 20ft in length and 14ft wide, which are movable back and front on railways". The horses galloped full-pelt towards the audience, secured by invisible steel cable traces and running on treadmills. Electric rubber rollers spun the chariot wheels. A vast cyclorama backdrop revolved in the opposite direction to create an illusion of massive speed, and fans created clouds of dust. The critic for The Illustrated London News described it as "a marvel of stage-illusion" that was "memorable beyond all else". The Sketch's critic called it "thrilling and realistic ... enough to make the fortune of any play" and noted that "the stage, which has to bear 30 tons' weight of chariots and horses, besides huge crowds, has had to be expressly strengthened and shored up".  It went on to inspire the multi-oscar winning 1959 film adaptation of Ben Hur, starring Charlton Heston - featuring the key live chariot race.
Some notable cycloramas still in existence include:
- Borodino Panorama, depicting the Battle of Borodino between Napoleon I of France and a Russian Army outside Moscow in 1812. On display in Moscow. 115 metres long by 15 metres high.
- Pleven Panorama, depicting the Siege of Plevna in 1878, in Pleven, Bulgaria - also known as the panorama with the world's biggest canvas.
- The Racławice Panorama, depicting the Battle of Racławice during the Kościuszko Uprising is on display in Wrocław, Poland. 115 metres long by 15 metres high.
- Atlanta Cyclorama, depicting the Battle of Atlanta during the American Civil War is on display in Atlanta
- Behalt Cyclorama, depicting the heritage of the Amish and Mennonite people
- Gettysburg Cyclorama, depicting the Battle of Gettysburg during the U.S. Civil War is displayed at Gettysburg National Military Park. The version on display is the second of four known versions of this painting, and one of only two extant. The original was temporarily lost from 1933–1965, and has not been on public display since 1933. The second version, originally created for a Boston exhibition, is now on display at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.
- Cyclorama of Jerusalem, depicting Jesus Christ's Crucifixion is on display in Saint Anne de Beaupre, Quebec, Canada
- Waterloo Cyclorama, depicting the Battle of Waterloo is displayed in Belgium near the city of Waterloo
- 1973 October War panorama in Cairo, Egypt depicting the attack on the Bar Lev Line and the subsequent fighting during the Yom Kippur/1973 October War between Israel and Egypt.
- The Riesenrundgemälde (giant circular painting) in Innsbruck, Austria, shows the Battles of Bergisel, still in its original building.
- Panorama Mesdag, depicting the Dutch village of Scheveningen in 1881, displayed in The Hague, Netherlands
- Palace and Gardens of Versailles cyclorama, painted by John Vanderlyn on display in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
- Bunker Hill Cyclorama, depicting the Battle of Bunker Hill, is displayed at the Bunker Hill museum.
- Arrival of the Hungarians (also called Feszty Panorama), by Árpád Feszty et al., completed in 1894. It was painted to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the 895 AD conquest of the Carpathian Basin by the Hungarians. It is displayed at the National Historical Memorial Park, Ópusztaszer, Hungary.
- Taejon Cyclorama, depicting the Battle of Taejon. On display at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang, North Korea.
- ^ "Land and Naval Battles of Vicksburg, Panorama in Asakusa Park, Tokyo," c. 1891; retrieved 2011-06-03
- ^ a b Guardian article: Ben-Hur, London, 1902. 8 October 2003. Accessed 2010-05-27
- Moving panorama
- Panoramic painting
- International Panorama Council
- Cyclorama of Jerusalem
- Visions & illusions: the art of the cyclorama
- The New Georgia Encyclopedia
- The Buffalo Cyclorama
- The Panorama Mesdag
- Gettysburg Cyclorama
- A Battle Scene's Full Circle: Massive Painting of Gettysburg Restored
- Big Touch-Up for the Blue and the Gray
- International Panorama Council. A worldwide network of experts in panoramas and cycloramas
- Battles of Vicksburg, cyclorama in Tokyo, circa 1891
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