The diorama was a brainchild of the developer of photography, Louis Daguerre. The first example opening in London in 1823, it used changing sources of light on a huge translucent canvas to create the illusion of scenes changing over time. It consisted of a canvas painted with scenes on both sides. These were normally similar but transformed in some way, often the same landscape at day and night, or just before and after some terrible catastrophe. These would be alternately lit from in front and behind, to illuminate first one image and then the other. In its innovation and popularity it was the forerunner of cinema later in the century.
Editors. "Diorama opens in London". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 August 2013
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=1788, accessed 23 August 2014.]