Museo del precinema
The Museum of PRECINEMA - Minici Zotti Collection From Magic Lanterns to the Cinema
In Prato della Valle on the last floor of the monumental Palazzo Angeli, visitors can enjoy the Minici Zotti Collection whose items were brought together with the aim of valuing and diffusing knowledge about the origins of the idea of projecting images onto a screen.
The museum, promoted by the Padua Municipality, is a jewel in the crown for the City. It includes instruments and optical games, rare iconographic and bibliographic materials, musical instruments and above all a significant number of Magic Lanterns and projection slides that bear witness to the fascinating journey of fixed and animated images from the 18th century to the birth of Cinema. There are specific sectors devoted to photography, stereoscopy and Magic Lanterns.
The Magic Lantern is an optical instrument invented in the mid-17th century for projecting onto a screen small painted images or photographs on glass, to produce a magnified image. Projection slides, that are true miniatures on glass, may produce either fixed or moving images with the aid of small, complicated mechanisms. The series devoted to Astronomy, to the funny characters, to fantastic apparitions, to the dissolving of light between day and night, to moralizing stories, to the aurora borealis of the North Pole, to fairy-tales and legends constitute the most successful iconographic subjects of the 18th and 19th centuries. The series dedicated to the Grand Tour takes us on a journey in the footsteps of the scions of noble families as they made their educational journey across Europe. There are also scientific subjects with “les projections vivantes”, the surprising effects of "mechanical paintings" with fountains that spurt water, volcanic eruptions, snow, rain, lightning, rainbows and rare erotic images, and finally the Cromatropes, suggestive colour projections that produce effects that are similar to the rose windows of Gothic cathedrals. In 1895 the Cinema was born and sadly enough the Magic Lantern was packed and moved to the attics. Considered to be the ancestor of cinema by narrow minds, for centuries it offered the audiences of its time what used to be called "Marvellous Show".
The visit of the museum begins with the evocative "Campiello delle Maravegie" which welcomes the visitor upon his arrival. In the 18th century, you would run into extravagant people in the streets of Venice and of the whole of Europe, entertaining passersby with optical visions and with the Peep Show, "an ingenious machine" that for a few pennies would show people "many wonders", in the words of Carlo Goldoni.
Like all private collections, also this one reflects the taste of its creator, Laura Minici Zotti, collector, "lanternist" and director of the Museum who has been collecting items on the pre-cinema era for a long time now, attaching priority to those she fancies most. The aim of the Museum is to enable people to get to know more about this overlooked aspect of vision, and it organizes itinerant exhibitions about Stereoscopy and Silhouettes.
The next exhibition is on the French Shadow Theatres. The shadow show cut on zinc was invented in Paris at the Cabaret du Chat Noir, a famous entertainment place starting from 1881.
With a staff and management who are clearly passionate about the topic, this small museum displays a fascinating collection of items. The museum also features an excellent array of antiques, and interactive exhibits that allow visitors to explore the ingenious pre-cinema methods of illusion.