Panorama of a Whaling Voyage, ca. 1860 [detail]
Thomas F. Davidson (?-1921)
Salem, MA
Oil on muslin
Museum purchase, M4197

Davidson was a carriage painter in Salem, where he showed his portable panorama outdoors in the wooden "stage" that it retains even today. As the images scrolled past the miniature proscenium, the panorama's narrative format conveyed the multidimensional character of a whaler's life in ways that a conventionally painted ship portrait does not.

Throughout the nineteenth century, many folk artists produced large historical panoramas and other ambitious artistic efforts that were shown to the public for a fee. This miniature panorama by Thomas Davidson illustrates scenes from a whaling voyage including a dramatic burning vessel, the strange ritual performed for those crossing the equator for the first time, flying fish, and other wonders. The back of the muslin is stenciled with the words "Lincoln & Hamlin," suggesting that the material probably served as a banner during Abraham Lincoln's and Hannibal Hamlin's campaign for the White House in 1860. The panorama was apparently shown on the streets of Salem in a simply constructed box that has also survived.(from ArtScape at www.pem.org)