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View of a fireworks celebration in London’s Green Park during a celebration of peace in 1763. A crowd of well dressed ladies and gentlemen is shown watching the fireworks and military pageant. In the 18th century, ballooning, firework displays and duels often took place in Green Park. In the center of the circular fireworks explosion directly over the building is the Latin inscription “Vivat Rex” (“Long Live the King”). These words appear backwards presumably because as a vue d’optique the image would be reversed when looking through a mirrored viewer, as described below.
This view is in the general format and size of a vue d’optique -- a perspective view produced as a hand-colored print generally intended to be viewed through a convex lens. Vues d’optique often were rendered in high-key color and dramatic linear perspective which enhanced the illusion of three-dimensionality when viewed through the lens, making it seem like the viewer was really there. Thus, they served as a form of visual entertainment. The viewing devices were known variously as zograscopes, optiques, optical machines and peepshows. According to the Getty Research Institute, street performers would set up viewing boxes with a series of prints giving a pictorial tour of famous landmarks, dramatic events and foreign lands. Vues d’optique were also purchased by Grand Tour travelers as souvenirs to be viewed at home as a parlor activity. To cater to this broad audience, the prints often had titles and descriptions in two or more languages. Because the images are reversed in viewing devices, the main titles on some vues d’optique are backwards. Vues d’optique were also hung on walls as decoration.
Louis-Joseph Mondhare was a publisher of maps and atlases in Paris from around 1759 to 1792. He was also a prolific publisher of vues d’optique, issuing some 160 prints in this genre.
Full publication information: “A Paris chez Mondhare rue S. Jacques a l’Hotel de Saumur.”
"Emperor's Palace in Beijing." Devices of Wonder. J. Paul Getty Trust. 2001. http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/devices/html/homepage.html (30 September 2002).
Kaldenbach, Kees. “Perspective Views.” Print Quarterly. June 1985, updated April 15, 2004. Online at http://www.xs4all.nl/~kalden/auth/perspectiveviews.htm (4 June 2009).