Scarce 19th-century panoramic bird's-eye view of Venice.
Created circa 1860 by Eugenio Testolini, a Venetian artist with a shop on the Piazza di San Marco, this piece is a vibrant example of lithography with original hand coloring.
The view encapsulates Venice during a period of significant historical upheaval. In 1848-1849, the city experienced a fervent revolt that temporarily resurrected the Venetian Republic, and by 1866, following the Third Italian War of Independence, Venice and the Veneto were annexed to the burgeoning Kingdom of Italy.
From left to right, the lithograph features notable landmarks: the Palazzo della Zecca, the former seat of the government mint; the esteemed Bibliotheca Marciana, with the Campanile di San Marco rising behind; and the Piazetta di San Marco, flanked by granite columns bearing the patrons of the city—Saint Theodore and the Lion of Venice—under which capital punishments were once executed. Further along, the Clock Tower on St Mark's Square directs the eye towards the Rialto and the opulent St Mark's Basilica. The Molo, a quay lining the lagoon, presents the majestic Doge's Palace, and across the bridge, the Palazzo delle Prigioni can be discerned.
Dominating the lagoon are two paddlewheel steamships, with one emitting a plume of black smoke, with gondolas and smaller boats transporting their patrons across the waters. This scene captures the essence of Venice as a historic hub of tourism, which began in the 18th century with the Grand Tour and continued into the 19th century as a fashionable destination for the affluent and celebrated, drawn to the city's unique landscape, rich cultural heritage, and luxurious establishments like the Danieli Hotel and the Caffè Florian. In the distance, a train across the lagoon is shown.
Testolini's fine lithography catered to these prosperous visitors, offering a memento of Venice's allure.