Venice has 'captured' the heart, mind and imagination of so many writers, poets, artists and historians. Venice is one of my favourite subjects in art, literature and history, and I am always eager to learn more and look more at this unique and special place. This Venice blog is my way of collecting the wealth of images, poems, prose and impressions of Venice.

Sunday 18 November 2012

What I'm reading: Fragile City (1896 - the birth of film in Venice)

I love how much is available on the internet.  I've been reading Margaret Plant’s wonderful Fragile City, a history of Venice from 1797-1997, and have been riveted by this comprehensive, fascinating account of a relatively little published period in Venetian history.
In one of the chapters, Dr Plant discusses the history of film, both set in Venice, and exhibited in Venice.  Dr Plant notes that Albert Promio, a cinematographer for the Lumière Brothers, shot the first moving footage EVER in 1896, from a gondola in Venice.  I hadn't known that.
I raced over to my Ipad and found several samples of the footage on Youtube.  Here is a screenshot of the first stills:
A gondola floats past as we head up the Grand Canal:

And then a steam boat swings into view:

It is extraordinary to look at the clarity of the footage, and remember that these images were captured in 1896! 


  1. Thank you for mentioning the Margaret Plant’s Fragile City, I've found it at the Aqua Alta bookshop and brought home. There are some books on the 19th century but this is the first one (that I know of) covering the 20th century also.

  2. Hi Sashha, thank you for stopping by, and for apologies for my delayed response. Yes! I was so excited to find Fragile City and even more so when I discovered that an Australian academic had written it. I am now wading through Ernest Hemingway's Across the River and into the Trees...published in 1950 and set in Venice post WWII.

  3. I read now the latest Brunetti novel - there was a review from a guy who said that generally he is bored with Donna Leon's books but this one is good. Well, I'm halfway through and I can feel how the author is filling the pages with lots of eating, getting around Venice and Mestre, naming the places, lots of "local color", the plot is barely alive - obviously she is very tired, and continuing the series is a chore.

    I've just downloaded this Hemingway's book, put it in my Kindle's "Venice" folder, but there are already 89 books there, I wonder when I get to reading the novel.

    Probably I should speed this up by leaving Brunetti halfway through.

  4. Good luck getting through your novels on Kindle!