Theatre Design & Technology - Dec 1966 - 15

same time, displays one of those thick fogs, frequent at the
rising of the summer sun. As the sun rises, the parts of the
picture are more and more enlightened, till at last the sun
gains the meridian.
The second scene displays the great cataract of Niagara. in
North America. From the top of the fall the river is beheld
diminishing to an inconceivable distance; the cataract tumbles
down with several obstructions, over all which it rolls, and is
met near the bottom by the sungy (sic) foam it raises; whilst
on the right hand, a torrent bursts, with rushIng noise. and
joins the foam beneath.

The third picture is a perfect contrast to the first. In that the
progression was from darkness to light; in this, it is from light
to darkness. That displayed the rising, this, the setting sun.
The scene is taken from the low land, between the town and
castle of Dover. The setting sun shines watry (sic) through the
blaze, and in its decline, borders the lower parts of the clouds
with red, and casts a glow on the old walls of the castle. As
it descends farther, the coulour of that glow changes, and the
superior clouds, that were while before. are now all illumined
and skitted with a brilliant purple. This twilight gradually reo
cedes, and leaves the whole landscape one blue and grave
scene of evening.
The fourth scene is as admirable in its kind. The \'vhole heavens are dark, but from the lOP of a light tower, a beacon of
naked fire casts its reflection on the rolling waves, and faintly
shews a rocky coast; at length, a pale light silvers the fellecy
(sic) clouds, and begins to play upon the curling billows. The
dashing of the surges on the rocks IS distinctly heard, as are
the gusts of wind that ruffle the surface of the water. Light
is perceived to increase, and the moon rises. The humid clouds
flow round and beneath her, and the contrasted lights of
the fire and the moon, rival each other in the pleasing effects.
A third light is introduced; a water spout rises from the sea,
pierces the air, and joins the clouds, casting its bright blue
reflection, whilst the continual suction and accent of the
waters, is seen within this translucent phenomenon. The moon
at last triumphs over the other lights, and takes general possession of the scene.

The fifth scene closes the grand climax. It borrows not its
light from the rising or setting sun, nor derives its splendor
from the moon. It is a flight, which only the genius of Louther·
bourg could reach.
It is a view of the Miltonic Hell, cloathed (sic) in all its ter·
rors. The artist hath given shape and body to the imaginations
of the immortal bard, and presents to the wrapt and astonished
sense, the fiery lake bounded by burning hills. He follows
closely the descriptions of the poet. Belzebub and Moloch, rise
from the horrid lake, and Pandemonium appears gradually to
lise, illuminated with all the grandeur bestowed by Milton, and
even with additional properties, for serpents twine around the
doric pillars, and the intense red changes to a transparent
white, expressing thereby the effect of fire upon metal. Thousands of Demons are then seen to rise, and the whole brightens into a scene of magnificent horror. The lightning exhibits
all the varied and vivid flashes of the natural phenomenon, and
the thunder includes every vibration of air, and shock of ele·
ment which so often in its prototype, stnkes terror and admira·
tion on the mind.
Such are the pictures which this artist has introduced for the
purpose of displaying the efficacy of his moving canvas in the
representation of nature. There reigns a harmony in all the
movements which compleats (sic) the deception·- There is no
harsh, irregular, or hasty transition--the progressions are uniform, and have the slowness and constancy of the operations
which they imitate.

The "Miltonic Hell" so highly admired by the reviewer
was perhaps the most effective of De Loutherbourg's
many "sublime" and "supernatural" scenes. It was repeated in 1786 at which time Pyne saw it:
Here, in the foreground of a vista, stretching an immeasurable
length between mountains, ignited from their bases to their
lofty summits, with many-coloured flame, a chaotic mass rose
in dark majesty, which gradually assumed form until it stood.
the interior of a vast temple of gorgeous architecture, bright
as molten brass, seemingly composed of unconsuming and unquenchable fire. In this tremendous scene, the effect of col·
oured glasses before the lamps were fully displayed; which,
being hidden from the audience, threw their whole influence
upon the scene, as it rapidly changed, now to a sulphurous
blue, then to a lurid red, and then again to a pale Vivid light,
and ultimately to a mySteflous combmation of the glasses, such
as a bright furnace exhibits, in fusing various metals. The


sounds which accompanied the wondrous picture, struck the
astonished ear of the spectator as no less preternatural; for, to
add a more awful character to peals of thunder, and the accom·
paniments of all the hollow machinery that hurled balls and
stones with indescribable rumbling and noise, an expert assistant s\....'ept his thumb Over the surface of the tambourme,
which produced a variety of groans, that struck the imagination
as issuing from infernal sPirits.1 5

Most of the devices described in the above passage
had been used earlier in such faintly sinister entertainments as A Christmas Tale and The Wonders of Derbyshire. The fact of familiarity, however, in no way diminished the awesome effect of the new design. According
to Pyne, the horror of "Milton's hell" was so intense
that even De Loutherbourg himself was astonished, having
"not conceived the power of light that might be thrown
on a scenic display, until he made the experiment on his
own circumscribed stage." 1 6

On January 31, 1786, little more than a month after the
first performance of Omai, De Loutherbourg, taking advantage of the revived interest in his work, opened the
third version of his Eidophusikon, this time at a new
location, "The Exhibition Rooms over Exter Change" in
the Strand. Five scenes were displayed; The Greenwich
Park scene, The Neapolitan sunset, The Moonlight view
of the Mediterranean, The Storm and Shipwreck, all revived from the 1781 version of the entertainment; and
the Miltonic Inferno from 1782.17
The storm scene was altered somewhat to take advantage
of public interest in a recent event--the sinking of the
"Halsewell East Indiaman" near the Isle of Purbeck only
three weeks before. Pyne's description suggests that the
refurbished tempest was more terrifying and delusive than
any "natural picture" previously exhibited on the legitimate stage:

. The effect of a Storm at Sea, with the loss of the Halse·
well Indiaman, was awful and astonishing; for the conflict of
the raging elements he described with all its characteristic
horrors of wind, hail, thunder, lightning, and the roaring of the
waves, with such marvellous imitation of nature, that mariners
have declared, whilst viewing the scene, that it amounted to
The representation of waves on the stages of our theatres, are
too obviously painted boards, either of stiff formal undulations,
cut out by the house carpenter, or imitated, as of late, by a
vast volume of Cloth, big as the mainsail of a first-rate ship of
war, on which we behold a luckless fisherman rolling about
like a stranded porpoise, or an unhappy wight tossed in a blan·
.The waves for his (De Loutherbourg'sl stage were
carved in soft wood from models made in clay; these were
coloured with great skill, and being highly varnished, reflected
the lightning. Each turned on its own axis, towards the other,
in a contrary direction, throwing up the foam, now at one
spot, now at another, and diminishing in altitude as they re·
ceded in distance, were subdued by corresponding tints. Thus
the perturbed waters appeared to cover a vast space. One
machine of simple construction turned the whole, and the mo·
tion was regulated according to the increasing of the storm.
The vessels, which were beautiful models, went over the
waves with a nalUral undulation, those nearest making their
courses with a proportionate rate to their bulk., and those
farther off moving with a slower pace. They were all correctly
rigged, and carried only such sails as their situatlon would de·
mand. Those In the distance were coloured in every part to
preserve the aerial perspective of the scene. The illusion was
so perfect, that the audience were frequently heard to ex~
claim, "Hark! the signal of distress came from that esse!
labouring out there--and now from that." 1 8

Clearly, De Loutherbourg had improved his waves in the
five years since the critic for the London Chronicle had
complained that they were" too abruptly angular."



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