This 1906 photo is of Milan’s great cathedral, Il Duomo di Milano, dedicated to Saint Mary Nascent and seat of the Archbishop of Milan. Begun in 1386, the cathedral—the largest in Italy—was formally completed only in 1965. Its primary style derives from the late French Gothic and displays extensive use of statuary and flying buttresses. This photograph, taken at the top of the cathedral roof, shows finials (spires) on the south (left) and north sides. The elaborate stonework of the finials includes profuse statuary culminating in figures of saints at the tops of the spires. At the center is a view of the back of the central gable of the west front. Work on the cathedral’s upper masonry was given a major stimulus by Napoleon, who wished to see the cathedral completed following his coronation there as King of Italy on May 26, 1805. The image is by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944), who used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. Some of Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographs date from about 1905, but the bulk of his work is from between 1909 and 1915, when, with the support of Tsar Nicholas II and the Ministry of Transportation, he undertook extended trips through many parts of the empire. Prokudin-Gorskii visited Milan in the summer of 1906.
Note: Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographic work survives primarily in two forms: 1,901 black-and-white triple-frame glass plate negatives, made with color separation filters, which Prokudin-Gorskii used to make color prints and lantern slides; and 12 albums of sepia-tone prints, made from the glass negatives, which Prokudin-Gorskii compiled as a record of his travels and studies. The Library of Congress purchased the glass plate negatives and the albums from the Prokudin-Gorskii family in 1948. In 2004, the Library of Congress had digital color composites made from all the surviving glass negatives using a software algorithm to automatically align the color components. As with most historical photographs, title and subject identifications are corrected and enhanced through new research. Current information on the collection is at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/prok/.
Place: Europe; Italy; Lombardy; Milan
Institution: Library of Congress
Physical description: Glass negative (presented as a digital color composite)