The diorama is a system of presentation by scenario or staging of an exhibition model (a historical character, fictional, an extinct animal or still alive in our era …), making it appear in its usual environment 1 .

It is a mode of reconstruction of a scene (historical, naturalistic, geological or even religious) in volume 2 (at least for the main subject placed in the center of the stage).


In its simplest mode, the diorama consists of a base or base supporting the model and complemented by a two-dimensional painted background.

In a more evolved mode, the diorama includes an environment also modeled in volume with a wealth of details identical to that of the model.

The veracity is obtained by a rendering of the textures and the colors closest to the exposed reality (it differs in this from the sculpture) even by the use of the real materials and objects (plants dried according to the techniques of the herbarium , reconstitution of habitats in original materials (skins, adobe, etc.), situating archaeological objects or fossils in their contemporary environment or reconstructions of excavation sites).

The scale of the representation depends mainly on the exposed subject: a historical battle, a scene of play, a scene with dwellings, will be on a reduced scale; on the other hand, an animal in its environment (fox, mammoth, giant squid, etc.) will be exhibited on a scale 1 of the real for more veracity and didacticism.


In 1802, is called “diorama” a large painting animated by a play of lights. For example, the diorama of Louis Daguerre is an illusionist device including paintings painted on transparent support, a room, a vision lens and a bellows, which the inventor calls a “panoptic polyorama”.


Historically, the crib obeys first the principles of the diorama (a decor, characters, a reconstructed scene).

Battle scenes were favorite subjects for these educational scenes ( Battle of Plevna , Battle of Waterloo , Battle of Leningrad …).

The model uses this kind of representation for the presentation of models or scenes set.

The natural history museums have since the xix th century , for didactic concern, animals in the scenes of their special habitats (Naturalization for contemporary animals).

Some museums with dioramas

  • Museum of Natural History , Bern
  • Cantonal Museum of Zoology of Lausanne , Palais de Rumine
  • Museum of Natural History , Geneva
  • Museo civico di storia naturale , Milan
  • Norges Hjemmefrontmuseum , Oslo
  • Senckenberg Museum , Frankfurt am Main
  • American Museum of Natural History , New York
  • Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archeology in Harima , Prefecture of Hyogo ( Japan )
  • Field Museum of Natural History , Chicago

Their quality of presentation is due to the intervention of three specialists: the painter of the backdrop, the painter of the details of the foregrounds and the taxidermist .

The history museum with dioramas

  • Museum St. John Francis Regis , Lalouvesc ( Ardèche , France )
  • Military Museum , Bucharest : Diorama of the Battle of Plevna
  • Panzermuseum , Munster
  • Storm of Sapun Mountain on May 7, 1944 , Sapun Mountain in Sevastopol
  • Artificial ports of the Battle of Normandy , Arromanches-les-Bains
  • Royal Museum of Arts and History of the Cinquantenaire , Brussels : reconstruction of the ancient city of Rome
  • City of London Museum , London including a diorama reproducing the beginnings of the Great Fire of 1666
  • The Tanguy Tower , Brest is home to huge dioramas that are historical reenactments and walks through the picturesque streets of Brest before 1939.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Definition and museological examples  [ archive ]
  2. ↑ It will not be confused with the slideshow , or even the panorama , based primarily on paintings or photographs, or in two dimensions.

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