Illustrating an episode of history from the Franco-Prussian War, the Bourbaki Panorama artist, Edouard Castres, painted a large circular panorama covering 1,100 square meters. Completed in 1881, the panorama was initially designated the Panorama des Verrieres and displayed in Geneva. In 1889, the panorama was moved to Luzern and a building was built specifically to house the work.
The Bourbaki Panorama depicts the situation at the Swiss border post of Les Verrieres in February 1871. On that date, the French Army of the East under General Bourbaki chose to cross the Swiss border and subject itself to internment in Switzerland over capitulation to the Prussians who were hounding its every move.
After negotiations, on 1 February 1871 over 87,000 Frenchmen crossed the border, laid down their arms, and were shipped off to cities throughout Switzerland until their release on 14 March 1871. The French government agreed to reimburse Switzerland 12 million francs for the care of these soldiers during this internment.
The scenes of the panorama show the point when the French cross the border and lay down their arms to be marched off to internment camps under the watchful eye of the Swiss.
Augmenting the circular painting are three dimensional displays of camp scenes using full scale wax figures and period artifacts. The effect of 360 degree circular painting combined with 3D displays lends a great deal of depth to the experience and draws the viewer into the painting. An observer experiences a sense of being a part of the spectacle. The effect is a bit eerie but marvelous nonetheless.
Castres was a logical choice for this commission since he was a volunteer stretcher-bearer at Les Verrieres. Really, a stunning piece of work.
If in Luzern, I recommend a stop at the panorama. For more details on Bourbaki, Castres, and the panorama, see, The Arrival of Bourbaki's Army at Les Verrières on the International Committee of the Red Cross website.