schwarz-weiß Foto eines Flugzeugs über dem Markusplatz in Venedig
© Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia - Archivio Museo Fortuny, 2015

A City at War. Venice 1915–1918

For centuries, the waters of the Venetian Lagoon sheltered the city of Venice, serving as a protective wall for the city’s inhabitants. In the early 20th century however, the development of new war technology brought with it an unfamiliar danger: aerial bombardment. This exhibition chronicles Venice’s unusual predicament in defending itself for the first time against imminent destruction from the air.

  • DATES 31/07/2015—25/10/2015


While Italy had remained neutral when the war broke out, it eventually entered on the side of the Allies, declaring war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1915. By 1918, more than 1000 bombs had been dropped on the city, threatening human lives, buildings, monuments, and works of art.


The photographs from the Archivio Storico Fotografico of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia reveal much about residents’ pride and confidence, their will to defend themselves, and their determination to prevent the destruction of their city. Despite the fact that citizens lacked sophisticated weaponry, provided easy targets for propeller-driven aircraft and Zeppelins, and could only construct inadequate bulwarks of sandbags and wooden planks, the images nevertheless impressively testify to the drama of the events of the time. Furthermore, they document the struggle of life during wartime: individuals’ efforts to secure their own survival and the city’s attempts to maintain public life through its institutions.

schwarz-weiß Foto eines Flugzeugs über dem Markusplatz in Venedig
© Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia - Archivio Museo Fortuny, 2015
Foto Graziadei Venezia, Wasserflugzeug über dem Markusplatz 1915, Silbergelatineabzug


The civilian and military efforts to save Venice’s cultural artefacts from air-raid destruction are poignant. One particularly moving scene shows men in dark suits witnessing, alongside women, children, sailors, and officers, the dismantling of the Horses of Saint Mark while helping to build the large sandbag barricades that lent the city such a strange appearance. Some of the photos on display document the failure of these efforts, as seen through damaged sculptures and paintings, such as the bombed dome of the Church of the Scalzi with its destroyed ceiling fresco by Giambattista Tiepolo. The images also show ceremonies to commemorate victims, as well as civilian and military achievements after the war.

schwarz-weiß Fotografie der Demontage eines Broze-Pferdes auf dem Markusplatz
© 2015 Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia - Archivio Museo Fortuny, 2015
Anonym, Markusdom. Demontage eines Bronzepferdes 1915, Silbergelatineabzug

weitere Ausstellungen

Further Exhibitions
10/02/2017 —28/05/2017

Beneath Italian Skies

in Albertinum

das Kollosseum in Rom
14/09/2016 —22/01/2017
Fotografie des Arbeitszimmers von Albert Einstein
02/07/2016 —25/09/2016
vier schwarz-weiß-Fotografien, zwei Selbstporträts mit Kamera, zwei Bilder von Bäumen
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