In 1852 Leopoldo Alinari (1832–1865) set up a small photographic laboratory in Florence, and two years later his brothers Giuseppe (1836– 1890) and Romualdo (1830–1891) joined him in establishing Fratelli Alinari (Alinari Brothers), a photographic firm that continues to this day. From the start, their greatest renown came as photographers of Italy’s rich treasury of art and architecture, often catering to international visitors on the Grand Tour eager to collect images as aides-mémoires of their travels, or as a virtual substitute for those unable to make the trip in person.
As it is today, the cathedral complex at Pisa, built from the 11th to the 14th century, is admired for its beauty, coherence, and completeness—and, of course, for the famous lean of its bell tower. In addition to choosing a point of view that shows the tower’s dramatic tilt, the photographer picked a time of day when the light best revealed the delicate series of columns and arches. Many a photographer has stood at the same spot in the subsequent 160 years.