'Battle of Trafalgar. Panorama, Leicester Square'

Text in English below image.

Cleverly painted, masked and lit by daylight from above, these circular panoramas gave the illusion to those standing on the central viewing platform that they were really in the landscape, seascape or battle scene that were the usual subjects. The panorama was invented about 1787 by Robert Barker, then in Edinburgh but born in Kells, Ireland. From 1794 to 1863, he and his successors exhibited many such spectacles in ‘The Panorama’, his purpose-built premises off Cranbourne Street, Leicester Square, where the largest views – including this one of Trafalgar, shown in 1806 – were about 30 feet high by 90 feet across (9 x 27m), on 10,000 square feet (930 sq. m) of canvas. [PvdM 2005, amended 8/23]

Many other showmen copied Barker and circular panoramas became common across Europe and America. A few survive (as well as modern ones) but the last large circular panorama of Trafalgar was painted by Philip Fleischer in 1890. It was seen in Edinburgh and Manchester before being shown at the 1891 Royal Naval Exhibition at Chelsea, and then toured on the Continent.

When they met at Palermo in 1799, Nelson thanked Barker for prolonging the fame of the Battle of the Nile in a Leicester Square panorama. This is the printed viewer’s ‘key’ to the version of Trafalgar painted, in the year of Barker’s death, by his equally successful son Henry Aston Barker (whose wife was the eldest daughter of Rear-Admiral William Bligh, best known for his early command of the 'Bounty'). It was displayed for over a year from about 14 May 1806 to 25 May 1807.

Object Details

ID: PAF4742
Collection: Fine art
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Adlard, J.; Barker, Henry Aston J. Adlard
Events: Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Trafalgar, 1805
Date made: circa 1806
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Measurements: Mount: 414 mm x 321 mm

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