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Museo del Prado, View of the Main Gallery (Graphoscope)
Laurent y Minier, Juan
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Laurent y Minier, Juan

Garchizy, Nevers (France), 1816 - Madrid (Spain), 1886

Laurent y Minier, Juan See author's file

Museo del Prado, View of the Main Gallery (Graphoscope)

1882 - 1883. Albumen on photographic paper. Not on display

On 24 February 1882, Alfonso Roswag y Nogier, the son-in-law of Jean Laurent and his partner in the firm J. Laurent y Cía., filed a patent application for a device called "the Graphoscope or revolving apparatus applicable to all types of views and advertisement-signs". Its purpose was "to place inside a box or cabinet, of small size, a relatively considerable series of views or advertisement-sings and make them appear successively before the spectator’s eyes, it being possible to turn them in either direction [...]. This device essentially consists of a box, in the form of a cabinet, enclosed on one, two or four of its main sides by flat sheets of glass, inside each of which a view or advertisement-sign appears and is changed manually, by turning a handle, or automatically, using a clockwork mechanism or a gear mechanism operated by the wheels of a cart, when the device is placed on it and is driven through the streets with advertisement-signs".

J. Laurent y Cía. Was the largest photography firm in Spain. Its photographic archive, containing images of views and monuments of the country, was comparable to the most important archives of this kind in Europe, such as those of Braun of Alsace and Alinari of Florence. The activities of the French photographer, Jean Laurent, are documented in Spain from 1856 onwards, and in 1863 he is recorded with the name J. Laurent y Cía. From that date he began to photograph the paintings in the Museo del Prado, having exclusive rights to do so between 1879 and 1890. The catalogues he published in Madrid and Paris, the cities where his shops were based, thus became basic reference works for the study and international dissemination of the paintings housed in the Spanish collections.

The Museo Nacional del Prado has the only graphoscope of this kind that is currently known -and perhaps the only one to have been made, as the patent licence, granted on 3 June 1882, was suspended on 4 June 1883 owing to non-payment of fees. It is of out-standing importance as it contains a photographic image which shows, in a continuous view, the Main Gallery of the Museo del Prado between 1882 and 1883. The photograph, which is some 30 cm high and 1,041.5 cm. long, consists of albumin prints made from 72 numbered shots mounted on cotton fabric. The front of the graphoscope, which is covered with glass and a passepartout, provides a view, by means of continuous rotation, of the Museum’s Main Gallery where the most important canvasses of the Spanish and Italian schools hung, with the exception of those in the oval Sala de la Reina Isabel, which included some of the Museum’s most outstanding works. As the photograph shows, the paintings occupied practically the entire wall space, from dado to upper cornice. Although structured around these two national schools, the arrangement of the works showed no regional subdivisions nor did it follow a strict chronological order and we therefore find an assortment of unrelated paintings covering the walls, the spaces between major works being hung on the wooden shutters of the windows, in front of which stood plaster busts of painters fashioned by the sculptor José Grájera around 1863.

El grafoscopio: un siglo de miradas al Museo del Prado (1819-1920) / edición a cargo de José Manuel Matilla y Javier Portús, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004, p.76-77


Technical data

Inventory number
Laurent y Minier, Juan
Museo del Prado, View of the Main Gallery (Graphoscope)
1882 - 1883
Photographic paper
Height: 300 mm.; Width: 10415 mm.; Alto segundo soporte: 300 mm.; Ancho segundo soporte: 10415 mm.
Museo del Prado, 1882

Bibliography +

El grafoscopio de J. Laurent y Cía: panorama de la galería central del Museo del Prado (1882-1883). Edición facsimilar, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004.

El grafoscopio: un siglo de miradas al Museo del Prado (1819-1920) / edición a cargo de José Manuel Matilla y Javier Portús, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 76-77.

Exhibitions +

Metapintura. Un viaje a la idea del arte.
08.11.2016 - 12.02.2017

The Graphoscope
22.06.2004 - 26.09.2004

Update date: 07-04-2020 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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