Beautiful photos of 19th-century Venice

The Local brings you incredible images of Venice in the 1840s and 1850s, using one of the first photography techniques invented.

Beautiful photos of 19th-century Venice
Venice's Grand Canal in 1845. Photo: K. & J. Jacobson

If it were not for the gathering of top hats in the centre of St Mark’s Square, the black and white photo below may well have been taken today. 

Copyright K. & J. Jacobson

In a striking sign of the timeless nature of Venice, a series of photographs published this week capture some of the city’s most famous sites in the 1840s and 1850s. It is only the occasional figure stepping into the shot, in 19th-century dress, which gives away the age of the photographs.

Otherwise many of the scenes remain in 2015; laundry hangs from windows, buildings appear to be crumbling into the canals, while the Doge’s Palace dominates the heart of the watery city.

The photographs are known as “daguerreotypes”, referring to the early technique which used a silvered-copper plate rather than a negative to capture an image.

Those taken of Venice once belonged to John Ruskin, a British art critic, writer and artist, and make up the world’s largest collection of daguerreotypes of the Italian city.

Copyright K. & J. Jacobson

They were not discovered until 2006, at an auction in the English countryside where they were snapped up for £75,000 (€104,000).

Now the photographs have made their way into a new book – Carrying Off the Palaces: John Ruskin’s Lost Daguerreotypes – which holds hundreds of daguerreotypes taken in Italy and elsewhere.

Launching the book, co-publisher Ken Jacobson said the photographs’ discovery “has been the most exciting of our career.

“Ruskin’s daguerreotypes would be a sensational new revelation in the history of photography even if he were completely unknown. We hope the work will be as intriguing to others as it has been to us,” he said.

IN PICTURES: Beautiful photos of 19th-century Venice

Copyright K. & J. Jacobson

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Italy to pay €57m compensation over Venice cruise ship ban

The Italian government announced on Friday it would pay 57.5 million euros in compensation to cruise companies affected by the decision to ban large ships from Venice's fragile lagoon.

A cruise ship in St Mark's Basin, Venice.
The decision to limit cruise ship access to the Venice lagoon has come at a cost. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The new rules, which took effect in August, followed years of warnings that the giant floating hotels risked causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city, a UNESCO world heritage site.

READ ALSO: Venice bans large cruise ships from centre after Unesco threat of ‘endangered’ status

Some 30 million euros has been allocated for 2021 for shipping companies who incurred costs in “rescheduling routes and refunding passengers who cancelled trips”, the infrastructure ministry said in a statement.

A further 27.5 million euros – five million this year and the rest in 2022 – was allocated for the terminal operator and related companies, it said.

The decision to ban large cruise ships from the centre of Venice in July came just days before a meeting of the UN’s cultural organisation Unesco, which had proposed adding Venice to a list of endangered heritage sites over inaction on cruise ships.

READ ALSO: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from its lagoon?

Under the government’s plan, cruise ships will not be banned from Venice altogether but the biggest vessels will no longer be able to pass through St Mark’s Basin, St Mark’s Canal or the Giudecca Canal. Instead, they’ll be diverted to the industrial port at Marghera.

But critics of the plan point out that Marghera – which is on the mainland, as opposed to the passenger terminal located in the islands – is still within the Venice lagoon.

Some aspects of the plan remain unclear, as infrastructure at Marghera is still being built. Meanwhile, smaller cruise liners are still allowed through St Mark’s and the Giudecca canals.

Cruise ships provide a huge economic boost to Venice, but activists and residents say the ships contribute to problems caused by ‘overtourism’ and cause large waves that undermine the city’s foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.