The Great Gateway of the Arsenal, Venice

WAG 1993.44


The Venetian Arsenal housed shipyards and armouries. From its first construction in about 1104 to the end of the 18th century, it produced much of Venice's naval power. So unique was the Arsenal, that it is cited in Dante's 'Inferno'. The astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642) worked as a consultant at the Arsenal in 1593. By the time this photograph was taken, it was used as a naval base. Ponti was a trained optician who took up photography while living in Paris. He moved to Venice in 1852 and opened a shop selling his photographic views of the city. He collected his images into albums that could be purchased by tourists and taken home. His first album, 'Cenni sulla storia fotografata dell’architettura di Venezia', was made in 1855 and featured descriptions of each image. His photographs were also shown at international exhibitions. Ponti gained public recognition for developing optical and photographic apparatus such as the aletoscopio in 1861, and later its variant, the megaletoscopio. Both instruments enabled an image to be viewed three-dimensionally and to be seen with different effects of either day or night. He was awarded the Grand Prix at the Great International Exhibition in London in 1862.