Images of Italy. Places of Longing in Early Photography

23 February – 3 September 2023
Exhibition Hall, Department of Prints and Drawings

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Press release
Images of Italy. Places of Longing in Early Photography

23 February – 3 September 2023
Exhibition Hall, Department of Prints and Drawings
Press Preview: 22 February 2023, 11:00 am

Gondoliers on the Grand Canal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the antiquities of Rome: Numerous photographs by Giorgio Sommer, the Alinari brothers, Carlo Naya, Robert Macpherson, among others, shaped the image of Italy as a place of longing. From 23 February to 3 September 2023, the Städel Museum is presenting a selection of early photographs of Italy. The exhibition unites altogether ninety major photos of the years 1850 to 1880 from the museum’s own collection, taking visitors on a photographic tour along the best-known routes with stops in Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples.
People have been dreaming their way to Italy for generations: the Mediterranean climate, multifaceted natural environment, and wealth of culture and art treasures have long since made the country a favourite travel destination. When the development of the railway system led to a boom in tourism in the second half of the nineteenth century, photography studios opened in the vicinity of the most popular sights. Even before the invention of the picture postcard, the photographic views on sale there were a prized souvenir for travellers, and also sold internationally by mail order. Johann David Passavant, then director of the Städel, began purchasing photos for the museum’s collection as far back as the 1850s. From these prints, both the art-interested public and students of the affiliated art academy were able to get an idea of southern Europe and its artistic and natural treasures. This brought distant countries closer while, simultaneously, the motifs in circulation determined what was considered worth seeing. To this day, the sceneries captured in photographs at that time continue to have an impact.

Philipp Demandt, director of the Städel Museum, on the exhibition: “‘Images of Italy’ invites visitors along on a photographic journey: from Milan, Venice, and Florence to Rome and Naples. At the same time, the show offers insights into the history of the Städel Museum’s photography collection. Johann David Passavant, the museum’s director at the time, recognized the possibility of providing unlimited access to artworks and cultural treasures with the help of the photography medium early on—thus upholding our founder Johann Friedrich Städel’s guiding principle in splendid manner.”

“The exhibition retraces the unique history of the development of photography in nineteenth-century Italy. The first section looks at how the medium entered the Städel Museum in the form of collection items and took on ever greater importance in connection with the emerging tourist industry. From there the show proceeds to images of Italy’s most important destinations, thus presenting a comprehensive—and singularly striking—stocktaking of its cultural landscape in the period in question. The sights of those days still attract the photographic eye today. The views are often the same ones we travel to now”, comments exhibition curator Kristina Lemke.

Curator: Dr Kristina Lemke (Head of Photography, Städel Museum)


Press images

Enrico Van Lint (1808–1884)
Pisa: The Leaning Tower
ca. 1855
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
14,5 x 10,9 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Enrico Van Lint (1808–1884), Pisa: The Leaning Tower, ca. 1855

Gioacchino Altobelli (1814–1878)
Rome: Fishermen on the Tiber near the Castel Sant’Angelo
ca. 1860
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
27,7 x 38,0 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Gioacchino Altobelli (1814–1878), Rome: Fishermen on the Tiber near the Castel Sant’Angelo, ca. 1860

Robert Macpherson (1814–1872)
Tivoli: Waterfall
ca. 1860–1865
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
40 x 30,5 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

Robert Macpherson (1814–1872), Tivoli: Waterfall, ca. 1860–1865

Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914)
Florence: Fountain of Neptune
ca. 1860–1870
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
18,1 x 24,5 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914), Florence: Fountain of Neptune, ca. 1860–1870

Carlo Ponti (1823–1893)
Venice: Bridge of Sighs
ca. 1860–1870
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
35,2 x 25,5 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Carlo Ponti (1823–1893), Venice: Bridge of Sighs, ca. 1860–1870

Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914)
Milan: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
ca. 1868–1873
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
24,0 x 18,2 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914), Milan: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, ca. 1868–1873

August Alfred Noack (1933–1895)
Riviera di Levante: The Coast near Sestri Levante
ca. 1870
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
21,6 x 27,8 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

August Alfred Noack (1933–1895), Riviera di Levante: The Coast near Sestri Levante, ca. 1870

Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914)
Naples: The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 26 April 1872, 3.00 pm
1872
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
18,1 x 24,1 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914), Naples: The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 26 April 1872, 3.00 pm, 1872

Carlo Naya (1816–1882)
Venice: View of the Marciana Library, the Campanile and the Doge’s Palace
ca. 1875
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
41,3 x 54,1 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Carlo Naya (1816–1882), Venice: View of the Marciana Library, the Campanile and the Doge’s Palace, ca. 1875

Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914)
Gulf of Naples: View of Sorrento
ca. 1880–1890
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914), Gulf of Naples: View of Sorrento, ca. 1880–1890

Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914)
Monreale: Panoramic View
Before 1886
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
20,2 x 25,6 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Giorgio Sommer, Monreale: Panoramic View, Before 1886
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Press and Online Communication
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+49(0)69-605098-212

Elisabeth Pallentin

Press and Online Communication Officer
pallentin@staedelmuseum.de
+49(0)69-605098-195

Carolin Fuhr

Press and Online Communication
fuhr@staedelmuseum.de
+49(0)69-605098-234

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Dates

22 Feb. 2023, 11.00 am
Press Preview: Images of Italy. Places of Longing in Early Photography
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