Magic Lantern (Laterna Magica) with Device for Oil-Lighting

Chur, 2nd half 19th century

From the 17th century onwards, when there was no cinema, lantern men organised picture shows at fairs, in taverns or on theatre stages. Before the amazed public they projected colourful stained glass pictures onto the walls with a «Magic Lantern»: foreign lands, wild animals, nature dramas, fairy tales or creepy hell scenarios. The flame of a lamp served as light source.

These image spectacles were displaced in the 20th century by the new medium film. However, the magic lantern remained a popular children’s toy for decades. These devices were industrially produced and from the 1920s onward lit by electric light bulbs.