La Rotonda Schmidt, Otto  (Austrian, 1849-1920)

Vicenza is a city in the Veneto region of northeast Italy. It’s known for the elegant buildings designed by the 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio. These include the Palladian Basilica and the Palazzo Chiericati, now home to an art gallery. Nearby, also by Palladio, the Teatro Olimpico replicates a classic outdoor theater, indoors. On the outskirts of town, the hilltop Villa La Rotonda has 4 identical facades.

This book by Austrian photographer and publisher Otto Schmidt beautifully documents Vicenza’s architecture in dramatic and well executed photogravures.

The photographer Otto Schmidt operated one of the largest photographic art publishing houses in Vienna around 1900. The Atelier Schmidt produced a highly popular series of Viennese types in nostalgic-romanticized dress which offered a sort of small-scale ethnography of the Imperial capital city. Schmidt’s work also accommodated the enthusiasm for the theater prevalent at the time. Schmidt’s production of nude photographs may be regarded as the most extensive of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Aside from artists, the images were further studied by doctors, anthropologists and interested connoisseurs to gain insights, to illustrate their research, to propagate their social visions or to satisfy their curiosity. Depending on the degree of sophistication and ideology, the lines between “artistic” pictures and “indecent” ones – such as were forbidden by criminal law – were often blurred. Frequent court proceedings were testament to these struggles for social values.