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date: 17 February 2020


A Dictionary of Film Studies

Annette Kuhn,

Guy Westwell


An optical device that works with the phenomenon of persistence of vision to create the illusion of movement in a series of still images. The Praxinoscope was developed by French inventor Émile Reynaud, who made a number of refinements to the Phenakistiscope and the Zoetrope, the most significant of which was the addition of an interior ring of twelve mirrors that allowed the viewer to see the moving images without the need to peer through a series of slots. The device was described in a paper in 1870 and patented in 1877. Reynaud continued to develop the Praxinoscope most notably by integrating a magic lantern that enabled the moving images to be back-projected on to a screen; the renamed Projection Praxinoscope was made commercially available from 1882. Reynaud combined all these innovations, as well as a rudimentary pegged mechanism that enabled a strip of flexible material (upon which the sequential images were painted) to be moved through the device, into his Théâtre Optique, a large-scale and refined version of the Projection Praxinoscope. Installed in a waxworks museum, the Musée Grévin, in Paris in 1892, three animations, Pauvre Pierrot, Un bon bock, and Le Clown et ses chiens—each consisting of around 500 images and lasting approximately fifteen minutesformed a programme titled ‘Pantomimes Lumineuses’ and was extremely popular with audiences. The Théâtre Optique remained in business until 1900 but was eventually succeeded by the success of the Lumières' Cinematograph. Optical toys that created the illusion of movement through clever play with the principle of persistence of vision, of which Reynaud's was one of the most sophisticated, were popular during the Victorian era and are considered important precursors to the development of the early cinema. See also series photography.

Further Reading:

Enticknap, Leo Douglas Graham Moving Image Technology: From Zoetrope to Digital (2005).Find this resource:

Strauven, Wanda The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded (2006).Find this resource: