The Twisted History Of VR Starts In The 1860s

When photography was invented in the early 1800s, it wasn’t long before people realised that you could develop a 3D image if you overlaid the same image at a slightly different angle. This gave birth to Victorian Stereoscopes, which was the first step the human race took towards 3D pictures, movies and Virtual Reality.

At this time, many black-and-white scenes were created of landscapes for tourism (and let’s not forget that one innovation driver - porn). But French publishers François Benjamin Lamiche and Adolphe Block did things a little more…surreal.

On Valentine’s Day, New York’s Swann Auction Galleries will sell some of these pieces, giving us a unique look into the fascinating history of VR.

Instead of photography, each image is built meticulously out of Clay miniatures. Artists elaborately coloured (by hand) the albumen paper prints with the correct hues so both eyes would register it as a perfect 3D illusion.

They would often poke pinholes into costumes, eyes and other image parts, so that certain parts of the images would glow when held up to light.

Because of the varying opacities of each type of paper used, the models (known as Diableries) would appear monotone from the front, but would turn technicolour when lit up from behind.

Now for the surreal bit - some of these models are both beautiful and horrifying all at the same time. Grab this lot for between $600-900 and you may get your hands on these French artists’ parodies of the politics at the time, the horrors of war and the upper class with a touch of humour.

Examples include the gates of hell that reads “speak to the concierge,” and the image of “Madame Satan” in her boudoir.

Don’t have that kind of money to hand, don’t worry - they have produced Android and iOS apps too, so you can revel in the trippy fun.