Whereas panoramas and dioramas in Europe and the USA have been thoroughly explored and the research is still in progress, such artistic phenomena have so far been almost absolutely ignored by specialists in Russian art. In recent years dioramas in Soviet art have eventually been comprehensively studied by A. A. Druzhinin. However, there is still no work tracing the development of panoramas and dioramas in the 19th-century Russia. Most of the pieces remain obscure, though this kind of art once enjoyed immense popularity.
The intention of the paper is to shed new light upon a significant, but hitherto unknown episode in the development of panoramas and dioramas in the Russian Empire, namely a panorama “View of Palermo” (1846), painted by Birman after a sketch by K. F. Schinkel and presented in St. Petersburg by Andrei Adamovich Roller (Andreas Leonhard Roller, 1805–1891) — a German-born artist long active in Russia. He arrived to St. Petersburg in 1834 already as a renowned master and spent there 45 years working as a decorator and the first machine operator of the Imperial Theaters. Stage scenery created by him was greatly admired by both the public and critics. The researchers are not unanimous in high appreciation of his heritage, but his contribution to the development of scenography in Russia is anyway widely known. He also tried his hand at the art of panoramas and dioramas which is cognate to that of scenery. These works remain thus far forgotten.
Panorama “View of Palermo” was dedicated to the trip of Nicolas I, his wife Aleksandra and their daughter Olga to Sicily in 1845–1846. In Palermo Olga got engaged to Charles I of WÜrttemberg. To keep precious memories of this journey several pavilions were constructed in the same years, such as Olga’s Pavilion in Colonist Park (by A. I. Stackenschneider), Teahouse, or Renella, in Znamenka Park in Peterhof (destroyed), etc. “Panorama of Palermo”, now lost and forgotten, should recover its place in history among them.
The paper offers analysis of documentary and visual materials from Russian State Historical Archive, Central State Historical Archive of St. Petersburg and periodicals of Roller’s time, revealing this page in the history of panoramas in Russia.