Theatrum Mundi - Mechanical Theatre - Moving Panorama - Marionettes - Diorama - Impériator Bio - Cinématographe Géant
Ghent / Paris - Grand Théâtre Mécanique Frère Morieux - Paris / Ghent
Cinématographe Géant
'Impériator Bio'
Fairground Booth Exhibitors 'Léon & Jean-Henri Van de Voorde' Belgian Fairground Booths


Detail poster
This page is dedicated to the descendents of the Buiron / Van de Voorde family who unearthed this unprecedented treasure from their attic and made it available to the world.

Some rare items from a Ghent based
19th. Century fairground attraction in the Early Visual Media collection.

Mécanique Morieux arrived for the first time in Gent round 1810. This mechanical Theatre (
Theatrum Mundi) was founded by engineer Morieux, based in Paris, and became also successful on Belgian Fairgrounds, exploited by the academic painter Léon Van de Voorde round 1888. This mechanical Fairground show became famous for their huge diorama paintings, moving panorama's or cyclorama's and mechanical marionettes made in painted iron, the main characters of the show.

In 1890 the Morieux theatre attended the Fairground in Kortrijk, Belgium, and offered most successful shows to the visitors: 'A visit to the World Fair in Paris', 1900, became one of their most popular attractions on Belgian fairground. This World Fair panorama is 60 meters long.

A panoramic painted decor with transparent effects was populated by odd and peculiar mechanical characters, Chinese, Africans, Russian Cossacks, Spanish Bullfighters, soldiers, etc. The transparent moving panorama painting was depicting the 1900 world fair of Paris as can be seen in the Eiffel Tower and the disappeared 'Globe Celeste' among other typical world fair buildings.

A pencil panorama sketch, preceding the fairground painting for the Paris World Fair show, was recently discovered on a flea-market. See the 4 panorama parts below, indicating the use of transparent effects similar to the Daguerre Diorama.

On the left, a colored lithographic poster glued on linnen, 1901, depict a myriad of themes offered by the Théâtre Mécanique Morieux. The poster is printed by E. Cockelaere in Gent. (94 cm. x 64 cm.)
.Click on poster to see larger image in Google Group Move mouse over.
  Revaluing Theatrical Heritage Challenges and Opportunities 
Further on this page, some of the typical Morieux Marionettes and their mechanical movement can be admired with the illusion of movement-on-mouse-over.
An illustrated PowerPoint lecture on this mechanical theatre can be invited on demand.

Grand Théâtre Mécanique Frère Morieux
Visitors of this page are invited to provide all possible information for an ongoing research project on the Grand Théâtre Mécanique Frère Morieux

please e-mail to
Thomas Weynants

19th. Century unique Belgian Fairground booth goes international
A discovery of unprecedented importance for popular media history
Withouth doubt the Morieux collection is the most important discovery in Belgium for pre-film and early film treasures. In addition to the 'mechanical theatre' parts, subject of this page, the Morieux collection also preserved another impossible dream. Hundreds of early filmposters and photographs (1902 to 1908), many of them in mint condition. Even more spectacular, the Morieux holdings also miraculously preserved nearly hundred nitrate films dating from 1902 to 1909 together with their original projectors in their boxes. The majority of films go back to the best production years of Pathé and fewer prints by Gaumont. Several of these films are unique prints and among them we find important lost short films by Albert Capellani (1874 to 1931). 24 restored prints of Morieux's Capellani films were screened at 'Il Cinema Ritrovato' - 2013, Bologna's renowed historical film festival devoted to early cinema. See also 'Il Cinema Ambulante Ritrovato' or download Morieux pdf (English & Italian).

Virtually all (recently discovered) Morieux treasures (mechanical theatre & marionettes, films, posters, moving panorama's, diorama's, magic lanterns & slides, film projectors, etc.) left Belgium (Gent) for ever. Fortunately, these gems started a new spectacular life and amaze media archaeologists, pre-film & film his
torians worldwide thanks to the good care of resp. Jean-Paul Favand (Musée des Art Forains), Fondation Jérome Seydoux-Pathé and the Musée Gaumont.

All credits for this amazing discovery, mechanical theatre, filmposters & films, should go to the descendents of the
Buiron / Van de Voorde family still based close to Gent. Please send all information about mechanical theaters and related subjects to prof. Erkki Huhtamo or Thomas Weynants.


The majority of the spectacular mechanical fairground attraction
'Grand Théâtre Mécanique Frère Morieux' (re-discovered in Ghent, 2007) is preserved by Jean Paul Favand in his
'Musée des Art Forains' housed in Les Pavillons de Bercy

From May 5 till august 9 2010,
Centre Pompidou was showing a part of the spectacular
Morieux 'Paris 1900 Worldfair Moving Panorama'

Goto the Morieux page of the Art Forians museum

! See the original pencil sketches made for the Morieux Paris Worldfair Moving Panorama on the current Visual Media page !

Below, in four parts, the original pencil sketch in the Early Visual Media collection, used for the realisation of the Paris 1900 panorama, served as a basis for the realisation of the huge canvas painting which was recently on display in Centre Pompidou, Paris.

(pencil sketch for Paris worldfair moving panorama, collection Thomas Weynants)

A virtual Fairground visit to the World Fair in Paris, 1900
Media Archeology on the Fairground - Grand Théatre Variétés et Impériator Bio


.Click on Horse to see larger image in Google Group - Move mouse over

.Click on horse to see larger image in Google Group Move mouse over.


(50 cm x 56cm) - Front.

(pencil sketch for Paris worldfair moving panorama, collection Thomas Weynants)

Move mouse over.
The postcard on the right, depicting a Mechanical Theatre attraction among many others fairground buildings, was send to the Théâtre Morieux by Rob Melich, owner and manager of the famous 'Theater Rob Melich'.
Move mouse over to see the mechanical theatre on the left, just above the 'Merry-Go Round'.

As can be read on an extensive programm of the Théâtre Morieux, this popular fairground attraction offered a wide field of 'new media' based entertainment, including Magic Lantern Shows and early itinerant cinematograph projections by the name Impériator Bio.

'The visit to the World Fair in Paris', 1900, for example, was a moving panoramic kind of entertainment using diorama light effects. The 4 original panoramic pencil drawings, depicted above and below, enable us to imagine how this part of the program was constructed. Details on the drawings for light effects are marked 'Transparent'. The 4 respective parts measure 65 cm. x 17 cm. each.

The four pencil drawings are numbered from scene 1 to 7 and and show one long panoramic view when placed next to each other in the correct order.

(pencil sketch for Paris worldfair moving panorama, collection Thomas Weynants)
(Detail) Click on panorama to see the more information on the Musée des Art Forains website (original Paris worldfair moving panorama, collection Jean-Paul Favand)

( Pavillons de Bercy) The complete moving panorama or Cyclorama is 60 meters long

Théâtre Mécanique Morieux related publication

'llusions in Motion' by Erkki Huhtamo
'Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles'

Click cover for the MIT Press announcement.
The Panoramic sketches were drawn by Léon Van de Voorde, painter & manager of the Théâtre Mécanique, himself. Some of his academic study's, seen in the mechanical theatre notebooks, are signed by him and shown on this page.

On the left we see Erkki Huhtamo's new book on the history of the moving panorama: '
llusions in Motion, Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles'. This publication offers for the first time a spectacular insight on perhaps the most important diorama and moving panorama collection in the world preserved by Jean-Paul Favand.

Besides the 'Visit to the 1900 World Fair in Paris', the program was offering Chromatropes, A journey round the world in 20 minutes, The Panama Canal, Diorama Daguerre, Eruption of the Vesuvius in Naples, 'Die Rattenfanger von Hameln', dissolving views, etc.

'The program mention more than 6000 mechanical instruments. (Magic Lantern Slides & Marionettes) The carte-de-visite photographs, showing time differences, announced via the Visual Media GOOGLE Group, depicted on the research page originated from the same theatre source.

Prof. Erkki Huhtamo is currently working on a unprecedented book that will conjure-up the art of mechanical theaters out of oblivion. Similar to moving panoramas, these complex mechanical theaters are neglected in even the most recent and important media studies. This coming book will fill a major gap in the history of popular visual media.

Max Rosseau, in the "De Gentse Foor in de goede oude tijd" (1960) writes that the show ended with transparencies, precursors of the cinematograph.
Some major Belgian and Dutch collectors have Magic Lantern slides previously owned by the Theatre Morieux.
See the Morieux Magic Lantern series 'Expédition de Fritjof Nansen au Pôle du Nord' in the collection of Martin Vliegenthart.
The letterhead below indicates that the Morieux theatre was familiar with cinema projections.

(pencil sketch for Paris worldfair moving panorama, collection Thomas Weynants)

A chronological list of fairs attended by the Théâtre Morieux was compiled by the Belgian Circus & Fairground historian André De Poorter. Besides many fairs in Belgium and obviously in France, the theatre was also active in German city's such as Köln, 1879 - Bregenz, 1887.
Group of 12 Soldiers painted on both sides
.Click on Soldiers to see larger image in Google Group
.Move mouse over

(78 cm x 45cm)
Move mouse over.

(78 cm x 45cm)
See a similar Theatrum Mundi Marionet group of French Soldiers in Stefan Nagel's PDF file.

Portrait sketches from theatre notebook

'Explication des Tableaux
du Théâtre Morieux'

Starting with

Conte en sept tableaux

The Morieux Marionettes operate by clever mechanisms to imitate lifelike movements as seen in the Horse legs below.

"Here you see the more unique and more difficult work in the art of mechanics invented until today. These automats are never seen before in any theatre and are invented and produced by Mr. Van de Voorde (Morieux)" From 'theatre notebook', 1876.

Drawnings by Léon van De Voorde - Move mouse over
The above quote from the theatre notebook illustrate a good example of self-promotion. Evidently, these kind of marionettes is not an invention by the Morieux theatre but simply a late 19th. Century example of the 'Theatrum Mundi' tradition.

Read more about Popular Fairground Shows at Schaubuden.
.Click on Soldiers to see larger image in Google Group
.Move mouse over

(42 cm x 45cm)

The majority of the Morieux Theatre marionettes and other important Morieux accessories are preserved by Jean-Paul Favand in his spectacular private museum, 'Musée des Art Forains' housed in Les Pavillons de Bercy in Paris. This museum is continuing the tradition of demonstrating historical fairground art combined with today's high technological possibilities to create a phantasmagorical dreamlike experience.

The Théâtre Mécanique Morieux was recently discovered in Gent (Belgium) and acquired by The 'Musée des Art Forains' in Paris.
The finding is withouth precedent and shows the wooden fairground building, fairground statues, mechanical marionettes, magic lantern slides, moving panorama's, diorama's, magic lanterns, posters, theatre notebooks, photographs, programme brochures, etc.

Letterhead of the Morieux Mechanical Theatre mentioning
'Projections. Genre de Spectacle Unique au Monde'
Horse legs
Move mouse over to see mechanisme of Horse legs

Two Albumin Carte-de-Visite photographs also come from the same Théâtre Morieux source.
BELGIQUE: 'Heure exacte de ses principales villes, Lorsqu' il est midi juste a Bruxelles'
MONDE: 'Heure exacte de ses principales villes, Lorsqu' il est midi juste a Paris'

Perhaps they depict a mechanical curiosity on shown on Fairground?
Or match in the explanation as found in the book 'New Media 1740 - 1915',
being a comparative time-table as an aid in a period when there was no Standard Railroad Time?


A Théâtre Morieux Notebook, (1876) in French handwriting, unveils interesting historical information.
See part III of one of their shows, translated into English:

"In the following part we show the famous articulated marionettes.
I ask the people not to confuse these marionettes with marionettes on strings. Here you see the more special and more difficult work in the art of mechanics invented until today. These automats are never seen before in any theatre and are invented and made by Mr. Van de Voorde (Morieux)"

Move mouse over

(84 cm x 37 cm)
The marionette of
the armed soldier
has a trigger to
enable gunpowder to

Move mouse over.

(84 cm x 37 cm)


"(III) Dans le prochain numéro les celèbres automates, acrobats gymnasiargues, je prie la sociète de ne pas confondre ces automates avec les marionettes à la corde qui sont tirées ou diagées par des ficelles.
Ceci est le plus grande et le plus difficile travail dans l'art mécanique qui a été inventé jusqu'a ce jour. Les automates n' ont pas encore été vus dans aucun théâtre, ils sont inventés et excécutés par Mr. Vandevoorde (Morieux)
" (sic)

See more Fairground related links.


    Click on ticket to see larger image in Google Group Move mouse over
Billet A

Copyright: 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - 2006 - 2007 - 2008 - 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2013 - 2014 - 2015 - 2016 - 2017 - 2018 by Thomas Weynants
he online Media Archaeology Museum version (24) Jan 2017 to Dec 2018 - All rights are protected by SOFAM.be