For the first time in the United Arab Emirates, forty vintage photographs and four original albums by the most prominent photographers working in Italy between 1850 and 1890 will be exhibited, allowing viewers to experience the beauty and grandeur of Italy’s scenic history. Visitors will enjoy the nostalgia of “must-see” tour destinations in famous cities such as Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Palermo, Taormina, and others.
Curated by Michele Bonuomo and Mara Firetti, the exhibition will include the great works of legendary photographers such as Alfred Noack, Carlo Naja, Leopoldo Alinari, Giacomo Brogi, Alphonse Bernoud, Edmond Behles, Robert Rive, Giorgio Sommer, and Gioacchino Altobelli, James (Domenico) Anderson, Robert MacPherson, Giacomo Caneva, Antonio, and Paolo Francesco D’Alessandri, Giovanni Crupi, Giuseppe Incorpora, Wilhelm Plüschow, Wilhelm von Gloeden, and Achille Mauri.
Created to capture memories of the cultural heritage which formed part of their identity, The Grand Tour was an exciting journey developed by legendary photographers, who set out to tour the great cities of Europe seeking history and art. Their journey took them through famous capitals such as London and Saint Petersburg, to the iconic cities of Italy, or the ancient “garden of the empire,” as referred to by the famous philosopher Dante Alighieri.
The photographs, which were among the most sought-after souvenirs of their adventures, were usually produced by Europe’s major photographers of the second half of the nineteenth century, at a time when owning a camera was a privilege enjoyed by only a few. At the end of the seventeenth century, The Grand Tour had evolved into a cultural education ritual for Europe’s young aristocrats, serving as a training trip with an itinerary that included the sites of Classic and Renaissance culture. Meeting new people and learning about their own origins, allowed them to gaze upon, romantically contemplate, and admire the ruins of a great civilization such as ancient Rome, as well as the Renaissance art and architecture that inspired many Northern European artists.
The Grand Tour was synonymous with wealth and cultural appeal. Italy was the preferred destination because it was – and still is – rich in works of art and remains of ancient architecture which, for the European culture of the day, represented both the essence of the Roman world and the Renaissance. By the middle of the nineteenth century, many tourists were visiting Italy. And if up to that moment the most popular “souvenirs” were engravings and paintings of landscapes and monuments, they were quickly eclipsed by photography.
Given that photography was in its infancy, and used only by professionals, most travellers who didn’t own cameras purchased these pictures as keepsakes along stops of their trips. By the early 1850s, The Grand Tour had begun championing the rapid development of photography and its respective markets, with countless photographic studios springing up and flourishing primarily in the art cities of its itinerary.
As the market continued to grow, studios began exploring different sale strategies, eventually producing albums that contained a series of images representing summaries of the cities, their monuments, works of art, panoramas, and everything worth seeing. Urban architecture often took second place to archaeological ruins: the Roman Forum was more photographed than Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the excavations at Pompeii more than the Bay of Naples.
Today photographs are amongst the most collected memorabilia, with entire platforms dedicated to the storage and compilation of online albums by both professional photographers and everyone else. While recent advances in technology have made it possible for anyone with a smartphone to instantly take and view high-resolution images, nothing compares to the nostalgia and rich history of vintage photography.
With this exhibition, Firetti Contemporary opens its doors to cross-cultural exchange of Italian history and culture through the medium of photography.
August Alfred Noack
August Alfred Noack, also known as Augusto Alfredo Noack (Dresden, May 25, 1833 – Genoa, November 21, 1895), was a German-Italian photographer. He was one of the pioneers of photography. His work is considered a response to the pictorial and artistic realism in vogue, especially in the final part of the nineteenth century.
The Alinari Brothers
Fratelli Alinari is the oldest company in the world operating in the field of photography, image and communication. Established in Florence in 1852 by the brothers Leopoldo (1832–1865), Giuseppe (1836–1890) and Romualdo Alinari (1830–1890), the Alinari company was the first photographic company admitted to the service of the Vatican Museums, the Louvre and various Italian museums. The brothers would photograph the artworks present in the museums at the time.
Carlo Naya (Tronzano Vercellese, 2 August 1816 – Venice, 30 May 1882) was an Italian photographer, known for his photography of the city of Venice. His themes ranged from works of art to views, from architecture to folkloristic scenes. In 1875 he published a collection entitled Ricordo di Venezia (memories of Venice), containing 20 photographs of Venice. He also worked in Padua, in 1865, dedicating himself to the Scrovegni Chapel, a famous work by Giotto. Some of his works are kept in the George Eastman House.
Giacomo Brogi (Florence, April 6, 1822 – Florence, November 29, 1881) was an Italian photographer. He began his career as a photographer around 1856 and founded his own company around 1864: Edizioni Brogi Firenze. He specialized in portraiture and later in photographs of works of art, in particular in the reproduction of sculpture and in panoramas. He carried out several photographic campaigns in the Italian regions and organized an important one in the Middle East, in particular by photographing the Holy Places, achieving a silver medal by Pope Pius IX. The Brogi company took part in the Vienna World’s Fair in 1873, in Milan in 1881 and the Florence Universal Exhibition in 1889.
Alphonse Bernoud (Meximieux, February 4, 1820 – Lyon, November 24, 1889) was a French photographer. A pioneer of photography, Bernoud left France to reach Italy, where his fame soon reached the high ranks of Italian society, so much so that he became the photographer of the Bourbon court first, and later of the House of Savoy.
Robert Rive (Breslau, about 1825 – Naples, after 1889) was a French photographer. He was born in Prussia to a French father and later changed his name to Roberto after moving to Italy. Rive has been active in Naples since 1850. He took numerous photographs of the excavations of Pompeii, of ancient Roman sculptures and also of the first casts of victims of the eruption of Vesuvius in ’79. In 1867 he participated in the International Exposition “Exposition Universelle” the second world’s fair in Paris. He was one of the first photographers to produce stereographic views, highly valued as souvenirs.
Giorgio Sommer (Frankfurt am Main, 1834 – Naples, 9 August 1914) was an Italian-German photographer. After his commercial studies, he devoted himself completely to photography, becoming one of the most famous and prolific photographers of the nineteenth century. He first worked in Switzerland, where he produced relief images of mountains for the Swiss government. In 1856 he moved his business to Naples and later (1866) formed a partnership with the German photographer Edmund Behles (also known as Edmondo Behles) who owned a studio in Rome. Operating from their respective studios in Naples and Rome, Sommer and Behles became the most prolific photograph producers in Italy.
His catalogue included images from the Vatican Museums, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, the Roman ruins in Pompeii, streets and architecture of Naples, Florence, Rome, Capri and Sicily. Sommer and Behles participated in numerous exhibitions winning countless prizes and awards for their work (London 1862, Paris 1867, Vienna 1873, Nuremberg 1885). Finally, Sommer was appointed official photographer of King Vittorio Emanuele II of Italy.
Gioacchino Altobelli (Terni, 1814 – post 1878) was an Italian painter and photographer. Many of the Roman views he made were presented at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1867, with great success. We have news of him up to the end of 1878. The exact place and date of his death are not known.
James Isaac Atkinson Anderson
James Isaac Atkinson Anderson (Blencarn, March 11, 1813 – Rome, February 27, 1877) was a British painter and photographer, who settled in Rome in 1838. He lived in Rome until his death, where he established his a photographic studio, later ran by to three generations of Andersons, first his son Domenico (1854-1938), and then with his sons, Alessandro and Giorgio. Their studio procured a long international fortune.
Robert Turnbull Macpherson
Robert Turnbull Macpherson (Dalkeith, February 27, 1814 – Rome, November 17, 1872) was a Scottish photographer. He was active in Rome in the 19th century. By the early 1860s, Macpherson’s photographic career was nearly at its zenith, with exhibitions in Edinburgh and London. His work received praise from critics, since “subjects chosen with fine taste and the pictures executed with skill and delicacy.” Macpherson was the first photographer allowed to photograph inside the Vatican, and in 1863 he published Vatican Sculptures, Selected and Arranged in the order in which they are found in the Galleries. A guide to 125 Vatican sculptures with woodcuts was elaborated by his wife starting from his photographs. Although residing in Rome, Macpherson remained an active member of the Photographic Society of Scotland.
Antonio D’Alessandri & Paolo Francesco D’Alessandri
Antonio D’Alessandri (L’Aquila, 1818 – Rome, 1893) and Paolo Francesco D’Alessandri (L’Aquila, 1824 – Rome, 1889) were two Italian photographers, contemporaries of the Alinari, who were mainly active in Rome. Known for their wet collodion technique, they worked mainly with clients belonging to the “Roman nobility” and to high Vatican prelates. The two photographers who photographed the breach of Porta Pia, and the capture of Rome, are considered the first war photojournalists in Italy. Photos of their collections are also kept at the International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House in Rochester (New York), the oldest museum in the world dedicated to photography. The D’Alessandri brothers participated with their photographs in at least eight exhibitions, winning the 1st prize in the one in Rome in 1870, in the one in Paris a silver medal and in the one in Milan a bronze medal for a series of portraits made with coloured jelly.
Wilhelm von Plüschow
Wilhelm von Plüschow, or Guglielmo Plüschow, also written Plueschow, or Pluschow, or Plueskow (Wismar, August 18, 1852 – Berlin, January 3, 1930), was a German photographer who moved to Italy, first to Naples and then to Rome, and became known for his nude photos of young Italians, mostly male (but also female). Plüschow was Wilhelm von Gloeden’s cousin. In the early 1870s, he moved to Naples and changed his name from “Wilhelm” to its Italian equivalent “Guglielmo”.
Wilhelm Iwan Friederich August von Gloeden
Wilhelm Iwan Friederich August von Gloeden, also known as Baron Guglielmo (Wismar, 16 September 1856 – Taormina, 16 February 1931), was a German photographer active mainly in Italy.
From a modern point of view, his work is notable for his skilful and controlled use of lighting, as well as for the elegant pose of his models. The innovative use of photographic filters also contributed to the artistic perfection of his works. Von Gloeden, belonging to the small German nobility, was born in the castle of Völkshagen, near Wismar (Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg- Schwerin).  He graduated in History of Art at the University of Rostock (1876), and continued painting at the Grossherzoglich-Sächsische Kunstschule Weimar (1876-1877), an art school that existed from 1860 to 1910. Suffering from what appears to have been tuberculosis, moved to southern Italy, first to Naples and soon after to Taormina in Sicily in 1878. Long a local celebrity in
Taormina, his work (and his models) attracted leading figures of the time to Sicily, such as Oscar Wilde (in December 1897), the “king of cannons” Friedrich Alfred Krupp, Richard Strauss, as well as the German emperor Wilhelm II, although it should be remembered that the fame of Taormina, as an elite tourist destination, was already asserting itself from time.
While today von Gloeden is best known for his nudes, he was also very much appreciated and known for his landscape photography, which helped to spread tourism in Italy; he also documented the damage caused by the Messina earthquake of 1908. Most of his pictures and portraits were made before 1914-15, in the period between 1890 and 1910. The first monographic exhibition dedicated to the work of Von Gloeden was only staged in Italy in 1978, in Spoleto, on the occasion of the Festival dei Due Mondi.
Achille Mauri (Foggia, 1835 – Naples, after 1909) was one of the pioneers of photography. He began his activity in Foggia, Italy, before 1860, not limiting himself only to portraiture but also to landscapes. A few years later he moved to Naples, in Strada di Chiaia, in 1872 he took over the studio of the famous French photographer Alphonse Bernoud (1820-1889), and acquired the entire archive of the great transalpine photographer, according to a fairly widespread practice at that time among photographers. In Naples, he began to announce himself “successor of A. Bernoud, photographer of His Majesty the King of Italy”, which further paved his way to fame. In 1873 Mauri participated in the Vienna World’s Fair where he presented some photographs of the Italian railways and ports achieving a certain notoriety. Mauri was a well-known and sought-after portrait painter by the Neapolitan bourgeoisie and also a reportage photographer: he was unique in the nineteenth-century photography.
Gaetano D’Agata (1883 – 1949) was an Italian landscape photographer with a focus on the Town of Taormina before the second world war. Born in Aci Sant’Antonio in the Provence of Catania, he moved to Taormina at a very young age. Among his travels out of Italy D’Agata visited Ireland, Spain, India and the United States where for a year he established a photography studio.
His most successful period was in the first decade of the 20th century when he became an assistant for Gloeden. During the first years of the first world war, D’Agata managed to open his photography studio in Taormina.
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Firetti Contemporary is a gallery where art and creative concepts align from the region and beyond, encouraging global engagement through creating meaningful and sustainable collections.
By representing both established and emerging artists from all over the world, Firetti Contemporary strives to build a multidisciplinary art space with a strong identity to an international platform. Bringing together like-minded individuals and pioneers of the artistic and expressive future, the gallery assembles a dynamic curation of works that encourage the importance of individuality as well as establishing collective alignment.
Using the vast space of the gallery, Firetti Contemporary ventures to support a network of collaborations with a unique taste in presentation, becoming an integral part of the local community. The gallery embraces the central place that art can play in sustainability and social issues, whilst doing so its mission is to become a vehicle for social change, instilling values in our society through the inspirational power of art.
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