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Death and Rebirth in Photography: Palazzo Ducale, Venice by the Fratelli Alinari


In the late nineteenth century, Venice underwent political, economic, and cultural changes that affected its heritage and identity. The development of photography, the development of the mass tourism industry, and the success of Italian Unification in 1861 significantly influenced these changes. Photographs like Palazzo Ducale, Venice by the Fratelli Alinari came to represent both the death and rebirth of Venice. To Venetians, the depiction of the Palazzo Ducale in isolation was a melancholic reminder that the era of the independent and economically prosperous Republic of Venice had died following Napoleon’s invasion of Venice in 1797. To tourists, photographs of Venice’s art and architecture were an affordable visual commodity that preserved the memory of their visits. As an easily distributable form of advertisement, photographs of Venice’s art and architecture promoted the tourism industry that reinvented Venice’s economy based on the sale of the experience of historic Venice. The city's embrace of photography and tourism helped to preserve its heritage while it also helped to settle its relationship with the rest of the Italian peninsula. Popular albums of photographs that combined images of Florence, Rome, and Venice propagated a unified Italian identity, even if that identity was not yet fully ingrained in the Italians themselves by the late nineteenth century.

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