The University Record, October 26, 1992

Museum of Art displays 19th-century photography

By Rebecca A. Doyle

“The Photography of Carlo Naya,” on display through November at the Museum of Art, showcases a collection of mid- to late-19th-century photographs of the architecture, statuary and artistry of Venice.

Photographs titled “The Bridge of Sighs,” “The Library of St. Mark” and “The Canal and Gondola Repair Yard at San Trovaso” (shown here) are just a portion of the exhibition of Naya’s work. There are 23 albumin prints listed on the Museum of Art brochure about the exhibition.

Clarity, detail and contrast in Naya’s photography are due in part to the albumin or glass negative process of the era and in part to the dedication of his staff.

Naya’s method in the 1870s sometimes exposed a dry plate to the image he was photographing for as long as five days, says Paolo Costantini, who lectured about the exhibition earlier this fall at the Museum and in a special mini-course. Reproductions, or prints, were then made from the plate and sold to tourists or art-loving natives of Venice.

Naya also was commissioned to produce photographic prints for precise artistic documentation of Venetian architecture and statuary. His detailed close-up photographs were used to document the restoration of Giotti’s frescoes in the Cappella of the Scrovegni in 1867.

Costantini’s course covered, in addition to the photography of Naya, the photography of Italy from the mid-1800s to contemporary times. It was sponsored by the Office of International Academic Affairs, the Department of the History of Art, the School of Art, the Museum of Art and the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.