Deemed a "Paradise of Exiles" by the British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Italy attracted not only 19th-century Romantics, but also many of photography's earliest practitioners, who traveled to the peninsula in order to capture its monuments and distinctive topography. At the same time, Italians adopted daguerreotypes and paper negatives as a means to represent their own cultural patrimony during a period of political upheaval.
This exhibition focuses on Italy's importance as a center of exchange and experimentation during the first three decades of photography's history—from 1839, the year of its invention, to 1871, the year Italy became a unified nation. Paradise of Exiles highlights the little-known contribution of Italian photographers to the development of the new medium through some 35 photographs and albums drawn from The Met collection, along with 11 loans, including rare daguerreotypes and photographs related to the Risorgimento, the period of modern Italian unification.
Read a Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History essay, "The Rise of Paper Photography in Italy, 1839–55," written by exhibition curator Beth Saunders.Now at The Met blog post in which curator Beth Saunders considers the influence of café culture—particularly around the Caffè Greco in Rome during the late 19th century—on the young medium of photography.
Signature image: Pietro Dovizielli (Italian, 1804–1885). Temple of Vesta (detail), ca. 1855. Salted paper print from paper negative, 11 9/16 x 15 1/2 in. (29.3 x 39.3 cm.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005 (2005.100.1095). Related content images: Attributed to Altobelli & Molins (Italian, active 1858–65). [Men on Horse by Roman Aqueduct], 1860s. Albumen silver print from glass negative, Image: 10 3/8 x 14 1/2 in. (26.4 x 36.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005 (2005.100.1113). Ludwig Passini (Austrian, 1832–1903). Küstler im Caffè Greco in Rom [Artists in the Caffè Greco in Rome], 1856. Watercolor, 49 x 62.5 cm. Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg