Did you know? Firenze

When looking through a photograph album at the Alinari archives, I was shown this photograph of the Duomo in Florence taken sometime before 1874 when the album was created.





When you zero in on the facade of the Duomo, things get very interesting.  Instead of the brightly colored and highly embellished facade on the cathedral that one sees nowadays in Florence, this photograph reveals that the facade was left unfinished and unembellished after the Renaissance.



The following photo, of the Duomo today, shows the facade that was added to the building in the 1870s.


Why Italian cemeteries are so interesting to visit

Wealthy middle-class Italians of the 19th century seldom established art collections as their counterparts did in Britain and Germany. Their most conspicuous expenditure on visual art was on funerary sculpture, on the creation of vast, ornate, often beautiful monuments to deceased members of their families.

The erection of these was traditionally a private matter even for public figures – the Venetian Republic did not provide them for its doges – except in the case of remote heroes such as Dante, who was awarded a dismal cenotaph in Florence’s Santa Croce in 1829.

The state concerned itself with public statues of heroic and exemplary men, works that could be seen not in a chapel or a cemetery but in the middle of a square.

Gilmour, David (2011-10-25). The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples (Kindle Locations). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.


Did you know? Venezia

Sometimes I pick up the best information in the most off-hand ways.  When I had a guided tour through the Alinari archives in Florence, I was shown this image dating to 1874 or earlier in Venice.


Look carefully at that gondola.  According to my guide, gondolas were enclosed back in the day.  Much more private than today, when anyone can see anybody in any gondola.

I would have liked to be in the olden days (but I am happy we have antibiotics now!).

Grand Tour photo albums, a travel souvenir

If you were a young, aristocratic European man in the late 18th through 19th centuries, you might well have taken a Grand Tour.  After finishing your formal education, you would take a kind of gap year (or year and a half), traveling to and through the finest European capitals, including, in Italy, cities such as Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome and Naples.


You might have asked Alinari Brothers or another similar firm to create an album for you, comprised of their photographs of your favorite places. The Fratelli Alinari archives in Florence have many of these albums in their archives, and I had the opportunity to look at one of them from 1874.

It begins with a hand-tooled red leather cover.  The book measures roughly 20 x 30 inches.





The Frontispiece reveals that this album was created in Naples, by the Giorgio Sommer firm.



This particular album begins with photographs of Torino, Milano, and Venice, as here:



This album then moves to Firenze, and here are 3 images from this section of the book:





Next, the book moves on visually to Rome.  Here is a picture of oxen pulling carts through the Roman forum.



Then it was on to Naples.  The following is a picture of Mt. Vesuvius erupting in 1872.


I could (and will) spend hours looking through these albums!

According to my guide at the Alinari archives, an album like this would have cost a young gentleman about $1500 in today’s money.