'The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel', Louis Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, c.1824

A painting of the gloomy ruins of a church

Oil on canvas, 211 x 256.3cm

Accession Number WAG3034

Louis Jacques-Mandé Daguerre is perhaps best known for his contribution to the history of photography. He invented the first photographic process, the daguerrotype in 1839.

Daguerre first became famous for the development of dioramas. These were buildings designed by Daguerre for displaying his and Charles-Marie Bouton's huge paintings. Most of the themes of the paintings were landscapes, chapel interiors and volcanoes.

The paintings were executed on thin linen. Often real props were added to enhance spectators' experience. Lighting from the front and the back of the picture was used to suggest gradual passage from day to evening light as well the appearance and disappearance of actors and actresses. When one scene of the play was completed the auditorium was rotated to bring another view or picture on stage. These dioramas were in an early form of cinema and were very popular. The first diorama was opened in Paris in 1822. Its success was such that Daguerre was asked to design another one in London, which opened in Park Square East, Regent's Park in 1823.

'The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel' relates to the painting with the same title, which Daguerre exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1824. The only difference between the two was that the Paris Salon work included the figure of a comtess, who was visiting the tomb of her former friend, the Duchesse de Grammont. She died in exile at Holyrood in 1803 and was buried in the royal vault in the south-east corner of Holyrood Chapel. Daguerre exhibited dioramas of the same subject in Paris from 1823 until 1824, in London from March 1825 and in Liverpool from 1825 until 1827. There is no record of Daguerre's visit to the Chapel although the view by moonlight of the Holyrood Chapel was famous.

An extended study of 'The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel'| is also available online as part of our Artwork of the Month series.