Send me an E-mail
(Please, no questions
 about value.)

Instructions for sending photographs of your pieces with your question.

What was the Art Deco style originally known as?

Style Moderne
Streamlined Moderne
Arte Moderne.
                     To see the answer

Art Deco Collectibles: Fashionable Objets from the Jazz Age
by Rodney Capstick-Dale &
Diana Capstick-Dale

In the 1920s and 1930s the Art Deco style influenced everything from art and architecture, interiors and furnishings, automobiles and boats to the small, personal objects that were part of everyday life: Featuring high-quality photography and vintage illustrations and ephemera, this book brings these objects to life in exquisite detail for the first time. The objects in this themed book encompass the Deco style at its most alluring, as well as the modernity, excitement, and social revolution of the Jazz Age.

                                  More Books


The Story of Art Deco

This video explores the origins and history of the Art Deco style, from its beginnings in the early 20th century to the 1940s.

Click on the title to view.

And look for other videos in selected articles.

Have Bob speak
 on antiques to your group or organization.

More Information

Can't find what
 you're looking for?

Go to our Sitemap

Find out what's coming in the
2024 Summer Edition

of the

"In the
Good Ole Summertime"


Share pages of this ezine with your friends using the buttons provided with each article.

Download our
Decorative Periods and Styles Chart

Read our newest glossary:

Antique Furniture Terminology
 from A to Z

courtesy of AntiquesWorldUK

Videos have
come to

The Antiques

Expand your antiques experience.

Look for videos in various articles.

Just click on the
arrow to play.


French Art Deco Geometric Brooch

The Magic of Light
by Bob Brooke


Back in the 17th century, entertainment was limited to live musical and theatrical performances. But the invention of a magical device that projected images on a white wall or muslin screen changed all that and entertain would never be the same. That invention was the “magic lantern.”

Though several types of projecting systems had existed before the invention of the magic lantern, none worked well enough to really catch the public’s eye.

The magic lantern, also known by its Latin name laterna magica, coined by Thomas Rasmussen Walgensten, a 17th-century mathematician from Gotland, Sweden, was an early type of image projector that used pictures—paintings, prints, and later photographs—on transparent glass plates, one or more lenses, and a light source.

The name “magic lantern” comes from the experience of the early audiences who saw devils and angels mysteriously appear on the wall, as if by magic. Even in the earliest period, performances contained images that moved—created with moving pieces of glass.

The Invention of the Magic Lantern
Most historians credit Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens as the inventor of the magic lantern. He knew of Athanasius Kircher's 1645 edition of Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae which described a primitive projection system with a focusing lens and text or pictures painted on a concave mirror reflecting sunlight. Christiaan's father Constantijn had been acquainted with Cornelis Drebbel who used some unidentified optical techniques to transform himself and to summon wonderful appearances in magical performances.

But like other scientists of his day, Huygens thought it was too frivolous. In a 1662, he wrote his brother Lodewijk, claiming that his invention would harm the family's reputation if people found out the lantern came from him. Christiaan initially referred to the magic lantern as "la lampe" and "la lanterne", but later referred to it as the "laterna magica.”

In 1664 Parisian engineer Pierre Petit wrote to Huygens to ask for some specifications of his lantern, because he was trying to construct one with a concave mirror behind the lamp. This directed more light through the lens, resulting in a brighter projection, and it would become a standard part of most of the lanterns that were made later. Petit boasted that he made a lamp stronger than any he had ever seen.

From then on, magic lanterns used a concave mirror behind a light source to direct the light through a small rectangular sheet of glass—a "lantern slide" that bore the image—and onward into a lens at the front of the apparatus. The lens adjusted to focus the plane of the slide at the distance of the projection screen, which could be simply a white wall, and it therefore formed an enlarged image of the slide on the screen. Some lanterns, including the one invented by Huygens used three lenses.

Magic Lantern Slides
Ernst Wilhelm and Friedrich Langenheim, German-born brothers in Philadelphia, invented the first photographic lantern slides, called hyalotypes, and patented them in 1850.

Originally hand painted on glass slides, these “sliders,” as they called them, featured figures rendered with black paint. Soon the brothers also used transparent colors. Sometimes they did the painting on oiled paper, using black paint as a background to block superfluous light, so the figures could be projected without distracting borders or frames. They finished many of their slides with a layer of transparent lacquer, but later used cover glasses to protect the painted layer. The brothers mounted most of the handmade slides in wood frames with a round or square opening for the picture.

Light Sources
Apart from sunlight, the only light sources available at the time of the magic lantern’s invention in the 17th century were candles and oil lamps, which weren’t very inefficient and produced very dim projected images. The invention of the Argand lamp in the 1790s helped to make the images brighter. But the invention of limelight, created by heating a piece of limestone in burning gas until it became incandescent, in the 1820s made them even brighter, producing a light strong enough to project an image before thousands of people, leading to large shows by professional showmen. But it was dangerous. The invention of the intensely bright electric arc lamp in the 1860s eliminated the need for combustible gases or hazardous chemicals, and eventually the incandescent electric lamp further improved safety and convenience, although not brightness.

Entertainment Led to Education
Users of early magic lanterns intended on scaring their audiences. Pierre Petit called it "lanterne de peur," the lantern of fear in 1664. Surviving lantern plates and descriptions from the next several decades prove that the new medium wasn’t just used for horror shows, but that people used them to project many kinds of subjects.

In 1675, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz saw an important role for the magic lantern in his plan for a kind of world exhibition with projections of "attempts at flight, artistic meteors, optical effects, representations of the sky with the star and comets, and a model of the earth, fireworks, water fountains, and ships in rare forms; then mandrakes and other rare plants and exotic animals."

Johannes Zahn, an early advocate for use of the magic lantern for education, saw the potential for projecting detailed anatomical illustrations which were difficult to draw on a chalkboard, but could easily be copied onto glass or mica.

By the 1730s the use of magic lanterns started to become more widespread when traveling showmen, conjurers and storytellers added them to their repertoire. The traveling lanternists, known as Savoyards because they supposedly came from the Savoy region in France, became a common sight in many European cities.

The earliest known “lantern show” in the U. S. occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, on December 3, 1743, “for the Entertainment of the Curious.” But the source of light for lanterns in this period—usually oil lamps—was still weak, and as a consequence the audiences were small.

Magic lanterns had also become a staple of science lecturing and museum events since Scottish lecturer Henry Moyes’s tour of America between 1785 and 1786, when he recommended that all college laboratories procure one. French writer and educator Stéphanie Félicité, popularized the use of magic lanterns as an educational tool in the late 1700s when using projected images of plants to teach botany. Her educational methods were published in America in English translation during the early 1820s.

Phantasmagoria was a form of horror theater that used one or more magic lanterns to project frightening images, especially of ghosts. Showmen used rear projection, mobile or portable projectors and a variety of effects to produce convincing necromantic experiences. It was very popular in Europe from the late 18th century to well into the 19th century. Etienne-Gaspard Robert became famous for his Fantasmagorie show in Paris from 1798 to 1803

Mass Slide Production
In 1821, Philip Carpenter's London company, which became Carpenter and Westley after his death, started manufacturing a sturdy but lightweight and transportable "Phantasmagoria lantern" with an Argand style lamp. It produced high quality projections and was suitable for classrooms. Carpenter also developed a "secret" copper plate printing/burning process to mass-produce glass lantern slides with printed outlines, which were then easily and quickly hand painted ready for sale. Known as "copper-plate sliders," they contained three or four very detailed 4-inch circular images mounted in thin hardwood frames. The first known set, “The Elements of Zoology,” with over 200 images in 56 frames of zoological figures, classified according to the system of the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus, became available in 1823. The same year many other slides appeared in the company's catalog, including "The Kings and Queens of England," "Astronomical Diagrams and Constellations," "Views and Buildings," and “Ancient and Modern Costume.” Even though the category of "Humorous" provided some entertainment, the focus on education was obvious.

The mass production of slides also made the magic lantern affordable to the public, opening a market for smaller lanterns with smaller glass sliders, which instead of wooden frames usually had colorful strips of paper glued around their edges.

Waning Popularity
The popularity of magic lanterns waned after the introduction of movies in the 1890s, but they remained a common medium until slide projectors became widespread during the 1950s.

< Back to Collectibles Archives                                      Next Article >

Antiques Q&A

Antiques and More on

The Antiques Almanac on Facebook

No antiques or collectibles
are sold on this site.

How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

Read an Excerpt

Auction News
Get up to the minute news of antiques auctions around the country and the world.

Also see
The Auction Directory

Antiques News
Read breaking news stories from the world of antiques and collectibles.

Art Exhibitions
Search for art exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world.

Home | About This Site | Antiques | Collectibles | Antique Tips | Book Shop | Antique Trivia | Antique Spotlight | Antiques News  Special Features | Caring for Your Collections | Collecting | Readers Ask | Antiques Glossaries | Resources | Contact
Copyright ©2007-2023 by Bob Brooke Communications
Site design and development by BBC Web Services