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Panorama Mesdag: a trip back in time to a fishing village in the 19th century

When you visit the Panorama Mesdag, you are traveling back in time. When you see the 360-degree view of the dunes, the sea and the fishing village of Scheveningen, you are stepping back in time and experiencing how it looked like in 1881.

Panorama Mesdag is the oldest 19th-century panorama painting in the world that it’s on its original site. The art is cylindrical, and it’s more than 14 meters high and 120 meters in circumference. It’s so big that it’s hard to describe the experience of visiting the monument in words. This is a place you have to attend to see by yourself.

When I was planning my visit to The Hague, one of the first places that captured my attention was the Panorama Mesdag. I learned about panorama paintings when I visited Wroclaw a couple of years ago and saw the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice, the topic has been on my mind since them. The fact that my hotel, the fantastic Carlton Ambassador, is just a block away, made me sure that this would be my first tourist destination in the city.

Painted by Hendrik Willem Mesdag, one of the most important painters of The Hague School, with help from his friends and his wife, Sientje Mesdag-van Houten. The Panorama Mesdag is vital for being the oldest panoramic painting in its original location but, I feel like its importance lays more on the topic it features.

Most of the panoramic paintings depicted scenes of warfare, this was the more universal subject of this art. But Panorama Mesdag is entirely different since it shows the dunes in Scheveningen. This reproduction of domestic scenery is unusual and serves, today, as a beautiful way of showing how life was at the time.

Some of the history behind the Panorama Mesdag

At the end of the 19th century, there was a craze of panorama paintings, and this is the reason why the Panorama Mesdag came to be at that time. Hendrik Mesdag got the word from some entrepreneurs in Brussels that they wanted to invest in this with a Maritime Panorama theme.

The design started to come into shape in May 1881, when the building was over construction in the center of The Hague. Hendrik Mesdag had a canvas that was more than 14 meters in height and 100 in width. The solution to fill this up was the use of a glass cylinder as a sketch tool and transfer the paintings into its more substantial form.

One thing that makes the Panorama Mesdag important when it comes to art history is how Hendrik Mesdag used photographs to research the painting. Mostly for shadows of buildings and perspective details. Before that, pictures were not easy to come by as reference, but Hendrik Mesdag liked it so much that he made extensive use of it in his later years while working in Amsterdam.

In August 1881, the structure opened to the public in the centre of The Hague. Another panorama opened the day before and, around the time, the other two panoramas were open in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The panorama craze was reaching its high point and, by 1885, the Panorama Mesdag went bankrupt. Hendrik Willem Mesdag bought everything, and he operates with losses until the painting was taken over by the Modern Art Museum in The Hague.

Today, the Panorama Mesdag is one of the most important tourist destinations in The Hague. And it’s a fantastic piece of artwork that everybody needs to see.

You can visit the Panorama Mesdag from Monday to Saturday, from 10:00 to 17:00. On Sundays and public holidays, it’s open from 11:00 to 17:00. Adults pay €10,50, and there are ticket packages for those who want to visit more museums in the city.

Panorama Mesdag in The Hague

Zeestraat 65
2518 AA Den Haag

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Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani is a passionate designer with a penchant for crafting unique experiences and a mixed taste in music. As the curator behind this blog's explorations, he takes pride in discovering fascinating destinations. Whether unearthing hidden gems or sharing captivating historical narratives, Felipe is the creative force driving the stories you find here. Join him on a journey of design, discovery, and the delightful rhythm of unconventional tunes.View Author posts