Delve into History and Enchantment: The Banham Family Magic Lantern Collection

Published 10th November 2023

By Lissy Tsigarides View profile

Lot 487 - Of Franklin Expedition and Polar Interest. Thirty-two slides in original box, probably assembled from several sets on Arctic expeditions including those led by Parry and the 'Franklin search'.

The Banham Family Magic Lantern Collection

Prepare for an extraordinary journey back in time as we proudly announce the auction of The Banham Family Magic Lantern Collection, set to take place on the 4th of December. This remarkable assembly offers a captivating glimpse into the enchanting world of magic lantern shows that fascinated audiences for centuries.

Among the treasures awaiting new owners, our specialist Brian Goodison-Blanks highlights remarkable slides from the 19th century. Some of his favourites include slides depicting chilling images of skeletons, demons, and ghosts, known for their spine-tingling effect during phantasmagoria theatre shows. For example Lot 410, displaying a sequence where a skeleton falls apart, encapsulating the eerie allure that captivated audiences through history.

Lot 410 - 'Skeleton falls apart'. Ever since the first magic lantern shows over three hundred years ago, the supernatural and death has had a fascination for lantern audiences.

A standout feature is Lot 484 - 'Aladdin', a set of thirty-three slides offering a window into the world of mesmerizing visual entertainment from the 1880s and 1890s. This collection of hand-painted slides in wooden frames, including complex mechanical effect slides and panoramic sequences, showcases the magic lantern's heyday, reminiscent of the cinema's popularity today. Of particular note is a spectacular continuous moving procession, stretching fifty-three inches in three sections, presented through a specially crafted mahogany slide holder with a moving belt, allowing for a seamless progression of images.

The collection also boasts Lot 487, a testament to Polar exploration, containing thirty-two slides that recount the perilous journeys of Arctic expeditions, including those led by Parry and the 'Franklin search'. Painted on glass for projection, these slides, produced by the eminent firm Carpenter & Westley, narrate the gripping tales of uncharted waters and the adventurers who risked it all.

Banham Portrait For Catalogue
Members of the Banham family presenting their first public magic lantern show in London 40 years ago

Philip Banham, an esteemed educationalist and magic lantern showman, began this collection in the early 1970s, sourcing items from prestigious auction houses and antique dealers. The collection, encompassing approximately 870 hand-painted slides from 1750 to 1880, stands as one of the most significant in private ownership, reflecting meticulous curation focused on quality and visual impact.

Accompanying the slides are high-quality illuminants, accessories, and lenses showcasing the evolution of limelight and special effects in magic lantern performances. This auction provides a rare opportunity for enthusiasts and collectors to acquire these invaluable pieces of visual history.

The narrative of the collection intertwines with the evolution of slide artistry, where pioneers like Philip Carpenter revolutionized the creation of finely detailed images on glass. His collaboration with James Cox led to the establishment of Carpenter & Westley, renowned for their exquisite hand-painted slides, a few of which can be found within this auction.

As the Banham family's cherished collection finds its way to new homes, the opportunity to acquire these historically rich and visually striking slides opens up, offering a chance for more individuals to appreciate and preserve this heritage.

Join us on December 4th for an exceptional auction event that promises not just artifacts, but a gateway to a bygone era of visual wonder and storytelling.

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