Much is known about the magic lanterns as they are appeared in the catalogues of the traditional scientific instrument workshops where the connoisseurs came to buy them. However, it is hard to believe that any of the workshop teams painted the magic lantern slides: more likely this task was outsourced to glass painters or other specialized workshops. Indeed, Augsburg was well known in the 18th century for glass painting, and it was the glass painters who supplied the leading workshops with slides. In general, their customers belonged to the upper class, so the glass painters adapted the motifs to their socio-cultural environment. Particularly popular were the characters from the “Gobbi” series by Jacques Callot. Other motifs were taken from the milieu of the buyers, a wonderful example being the lavishly laid table or the two slides showing well-dressed men and women from the upper class.
Parallel to this world, Savoyards were a common sight from the 1720s to the 1760s in the villages. Again, the workshops in Augsburg supplied the Savoyards with slides created by unknown glass painters. Their motifs showed completely different images which allowed the Savoyards to tell stories about social inequality, with which the spectators were familiar. When the Savoyards avoided travelling through Germany for political reasons, the local showmen filled the niche.
Nothing is known about the magic lanterns and the slides the experimentalists sold. They may have painted the slides themselves, or maybe they were supplied by unknown glass painters (and scientific instrument makers) in Augsburg or Nuremberg.
In the second half of the 18th century Augsburg lost its leading position in slide painting. The neighbourhood of Nuremberg gradually took over as the labour costs might have been lower. In both cases, the panorama slide was the typical format with either single round images set in wood or a panorama glass with a wooden frame. Slides were certainly painted in other regions of the country, however little is known about this.
Unfortunately, so much material has been lost in the turmoil of history. Only occasionally do slides from the 18th century turn up and luckily most of them have survived in surprisingly good condition. It is my pleasure to be able to present a representative selection of hand-painted slides from the 18th century.