Peepshows of a different sort

an 18th century rarekiek or peep show box

Piranesi's view of the Piazza del Popolo, and (below) the peepshow illuminated nighttime view

I came upon the startling and thoroughly engrossing Early Visual Media a while back. An exploratorium of "Early Vintage Visual Media Archeology" and veritable online cabinet of curiosities, it comprises forays into magic lanterns, optical toys, early cinema, fairground art, as well as related and not-so related fields ("Prestidigitation, Conjuring Arts, Illusions, Magic, Physique Amusante, l' Escamotage... etc.")

The site is dizzying and disorienting: phrases that appear linked are not, images that seem static are animated, recursive links lead to blind alleys and others lead to yet deeper immersion into someone's scholarly obsession. That someone is Belgian autodidact and independent academic
Thomas Weynants whose delightful trains of thought meander and cross in a trail of foreign-inflected English and polylingual expressions ("Jules Richard was passionated by women. He build his own 'folie'").

Shown here, a sampling of Weynant's introduction to the Peepshow Box (also referred to as the
boite optique, rarekiek, and "raree show" and not to be confused with the Zograscope...) — a 17th and 18th century optical illusion viewer for engravings. Figures mounted on overlapping slides or back-mounted silhouettes were combined with the engravings to evoke an illusion of depth and perspective. Night views were pierced along appropriate details such as lanterns, windows, stars and fireworks, and backed with colored transparent paper. With light from four interior candles, the rarekiek conjured enchanting jewel-box scenes, presumably when it didnt cause alarming jewel-box conflagrations.

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