Milan. Nautical and Pyrotechnical Show at the Arena amphitheatre

Unknown photographer, "Milan. Nautical and Pyrotechnical Show at the Arena amphitheatre", post 2nd August 1863, albumen print, 255x340 mm, inv. LV 1152

The photograph shows one of the most unusual and intriguing programmes held at the arena, a pyrotechnical and nautical double bill that took place on August 2nd 1863, with boat races and chases, in which women from Venice, Como and Lake Maggiore competed in local costume. Another six small prints (93x130 mm circa) from a single negative, were made to help the photographer identify the correct exposure and contrast levels. The final print is the result of a series of trials that allowed the photographer to find the best angle for the photo. The construction of the large amphitheatre next to Piazza d'Armi, was initiated by Napoleon I in 1805 and completed in 1807 on the basis of designs by Luigi Canonica. The inaugural spectacle was attended by the Emperor, the Viceroy and the King of Bavaria. The Arena was flooded with waters from the Euripo canal, in turn connected to Milan's old network of waterways. For many years the Arena continued to be used for parties, performances, parachute landings, fireworks displays, renowned tournaments and ice skating shows. The most successful events, however, were the nautical displays, such as faux naval battles and boat races.