History of the Institute
Founded in 1912, the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History owes its existence to the munificence of Cologne-born Henriette Hertz (1846–1913) and has occupied the Palazzo Zuccari on the slope of the Pincian Hill just above the Spanish Steps since the day of its inauguration.
Henriette Hertz, her school friend Frida Mond (née Loewenthal) and Frida’s husband, the chemist Ludwig Mond, had been renting parts of the palazzo since at least 1889. Ludwig Mond had revolutionised the British soda industry and become one of Britain’s most successful industrialists. The social gatherings organised by Henriette Hertz at the Palazzo Zuccari reflect her keen interest in music, art and literature which she shared with the Monds. Attended by academics, artists and diplomats, Henriette Hertz’s salon quickly became the »centre of the cosmopolitan intellectual life of the Eternal City« (Rischbieter 2004).
Evidence of Henriettes Hertz’s wish to set up an institute for art historical studies can be found in her writings from as early as the turn of the century. Working with the art historian Ernst Steinmann (1866–1934), she developed the concept of the future Bibliotheca Hertziana, a research institute dedicated to the study of Italian – and above all Roman – history of art that would bring together academics of all nation and both sexes »in complete freedom and independence« and that would join them in »the study of art and culture from the Renaissance on«. She laid the foundation of the institute’s specialist library by amassing a collection of books and photographs on Italian art, which was supplemented with volumes from Ludwig and Frida Mond’s private library (Rischbieter 2004 and Ebert-Schifferer 2013).
The acquisition and refurbishment of the Palazzo Zuccari and the adjacent Casa dei Preti (1904–1907), financed by Ludwig Mond, made it possible to install the steadily growing library on the ground floor of the Palazzo Zuccari in the winter of 1910/11 (Schmitz and Schallert 2013). The library was complemented by Henriette Hertz’s extensive collection of approximately 12,000 photographs. These formed the basis of the current photographic collection which runs to more than 800,000 images of all genres of Italian art.
The foundation of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in 1911 gave Henriette Hertz the opportunity to establish her art historical library as the second German research institute in Rome alongside the Prussian Historical Institute (today’s German Historical Institute). On 18 September 1912 – half a year before her death on 9 April 1913 – she bequeathed her specialist library, her photographic collection and the Palazzo Zuccari, as the seat of the Bibliotheca Hertziana, together with a generous endowment to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in Berlin. In accordance with her wishes, Ernst Steinmann was appointed as the new institute’s founding director. The official inauguration of the institute was celebrated on 15 January 1913. Her art collection – together with a share of her wealth – was left to the Italian state as a token of gratitude for the hospitality she had enjoyed for so many years.
The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 led to the closure of the institute; in 1915, after Italy had entered the war on the side of the Allied Powers, the Italian state seized it as enemy property (Rischbieter 2004 and Ebert-Schifferer 2013). Although the Bibliotheca Hertziana reopened in 1920, it was not until 1927 that a government decree repealed the confiscation by the Italian state. Since Henriette Hertz’s endowment fund had been eaten up by the post-war inflation, after the confiscation the institute received some financial support from the German Reich and the Kaiser Wilhelm Society. This was much reduced after the Great Depression of 1929. The institute continued to operate with minimal staff consisting of the director Ernst Steinmann, his assistant Ludwig Schudt and a porter.
After the Nazi takeover in Germany on 30 January 1933, the Foreign Office approached the Kaiser Wilhelm Society to request the appointment of the art historian and long-time party member Werner Hoppenstedt as deputy director and eventual successor of Ernst Steinmann. His role was to act as a go-between the Nazi Party and the Italian Fascist Party in Rome in matters of cultural policy (Schieder 2013). Steinmann, whose right to chose his successor was written into Henriette Hertz’s will, did his best to prevent the appointment and suggested Leo Bruhns, professor of art history at Leipzig University. The conflict was resolved through the creation of a new department of cultural studies (Kulturwissenschaftliche Abteilung) under the aegis of Werner Hoppenstedt. The new department was not really research-orientated; instead it was intended to convey a sense of German culture and German spirit in Fascist Italy. On 1 October 1934, Leo Bruhns succeeded Ernst Steinmann as director of the art history department of the Bibliotheca Hertziana, officially renamed in July of that year as »Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Art History and Cultural Studies (Bibliotheca Hertziana)«. The two departments ran in parallel, with Hoppenstedt actively pursuing Nazi party politics, while trying, at the same time, to give his department a semblance of academic integrity by employing serious scholars or inviting them to Rome to present lectures (Schieder 2013).
Leo Bruhns, on the other hand, supported the expansion of the institute as a place of research and education, introducing lectures, guided tours and educational excursions organised in cooperation with the German Art Historical Institute in Florence (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz) (Dobler 2013). The cosmopolitan approach championed by Henriette Hertz was demoted in favour of a nationalistic agenda, and researchers were and enjoined to focus on subjects like the »relationship between Italian and German art«. By expanding the research horizon to include the art of the Hohenstaufen in southern Italy – misconstrued as German ever since the rise of German nationalism in the mid-nineteenth century – Bruhns may have succeeded in saving the Hertziana from total Nazi appropriation, but it was not within his power to prevent the erasure of the name of the Jewish donor in 1938 or, for that matter, the closure of the institute to Jewish art historians (Dobler 2013).
When Italy entered the war, work at the institute once again came to a halt. In 1944 the holdings of the library were evacuated to Austria – against the provisions of Henriette Hertz’s will and the wishes of Leo Bruhns (Schmitz u. Dobler 2013, History of the Library). After the war, the German research institutes in Rome were seized by the Western Allies and not retuned until 30 April 1953 when negotiations between the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi were brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The Bibliotheca Hertziana became an institute of the Max Planck Society (successor to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society) and reassumed its old name; Hoppenstedt’s department of cultural studies was dissolved.
The institute, now called »Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max Planck Institute)« was officially re-inaugurated on 21 October 1953. The new director, Count Franz Wolff Metternich – a universally respected and experienced diplomat and the former head of the science unit in the cultural department of the Foreign Office, who had been an active contributor to the Adenauer-De Gasperi negotiations – was able to reintegrate the Hertziana into the academic life of the Eternal City (Thoenes 2013). Metternich’s success was to no small degree due to his guiding principle, which can be summed up as steadfast adherence to the ideals of pure research, uncontaminated by politics. In 1956 the circle of academic members of the institute was expanded to include Ludwig Schudt as head of the library and Heinrich Mathias Schwarz who took up the newly created position of a research fellow for Southern Italian art. The status of »External Academic Member« was conferred on two former institute assistants, Harald Keller (Frankfurt University) and Rudolf Wittkower (Columbia University, New York). The establishment of the photographic collection as a separate department led to the creation of further positions (Thoenes, Schallert and Schmitz 2013, see History of the Photographic Collection and Library).
The first post-war generation of fellows and assistants tended to focus their research on Roman sacred and secular architecture of the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. Source-based architectural history was central to the research at the institute under von Metternich, and the published results met with international acclaim. Another key area of interest was Early Christian and medieval wall painting in Rome. The newly created ›Süditalien-Referat‹ was dedicated to research into the medieval architecture of southern Italy. Heinrich Schwarz was appointed to the post in 1956, but died in a traffic accident in 1957. He was succeeded by Hanno Hahn. Tragically, he too died in a car accident in 1960 and was succeeded by Günther Urban. Shifts in personnel eventually led to the closure of the »Süditalien-Referat« in 1977.
In 1962 Wolfgang Lotz was appointed to succeeded Count Franz Wolff Metternich as director of the institute. Otto Lehmann-Brockhaus, the cofounder and former head of the library of the Central Institute for Art History (Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte) in Munich, succeeded Ludwig Schudt who had died unexpectedly (see History of the Library and Thielemann, Pace and Thoenes 2013). Otto Lehmann-Brockhaus became a member of the institute and its director in 1967. Wolfgang Lotz’s academic interests were in Italian architecture of the modern era and particularly in architectural drawings. At Lotz’s suggestion, Richard Krautheimer was appointed External Academic Member of the Max Planck Society in 1965. After his retirement from New York University in 1971, Krautheimer and his wife, Trude Krautheimer-Hess, settled in Rome, taking up residence in the Palazzo Zuccari, where he continued to work for another twenty-three years.
In the 1960s and 70s the institute expanded dramatically. The holdings of the photographic collection and the library grew steadily and staff numbers went from 23 in 1962 to 51 in 1978. As more and more researchers used the library, the lack of space became a serious problem. It was alleviated with the acquisition of the Palazzo Stroganoff in 1963 – with the financial support of the Volkswagen Foundation – and the construction of a new library tract. Planned by the architect Silvio Galizia working with Wolfgang Lotz and Otto Meitinger (head of the building department of the Max Planck Society from 1963 to 1976), the new library was inaugurated on 2 May 1969.
In 1977 two modern era specialists, Matthias Winner and Christoph Luitpold Frommel, were appointed to succeed Otto Lehmann-Brockhaus and Wolfgang Lotz. Ernst Guldan, who had served as academic librarian, became head of the library. The creation of the second directorial position and the separation of directorship and library management led to an expansion of the institute’s research horizon and gave more prominence to painting, not least because Matthias Winner’s research interests focused on religious and secular art from the Renaissance to the Baroque era.
Cooperative projects with Italian institutions and research institutes heightened the visibility of the Hertziana. In 1983, to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s birth, the institute organised an international conference on the subject of Raphael in Rome »Raffaello a Roma« in cooperation with the Vatican Museums. The acquisition of the Villino Stroganoff on the opposite side of the Via Gregoriana in 1980 allowed the photographic collection to move into separate premises (in 1985) and created much needed space for the growing holdings of the library and the photographic collection.
When Matthias Winner retired in 2001, he was succeeded by Sybille Ebert-Schifferer whose research focus is on painting and the visual arts of the early modern era, particularly on Bolognese and Roman painting – most recently on Caravaggio. Elisabeth Kieven, who had succeeded Christoph Luitpold Frommel as director for architectural history in 2001, retired in 2014. Central to her research were Roman buildings and architectural drawings of the seventeenth and eighteenth century and, in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the correlation of architectural history and the history of technology. The position of architectural director is currently vacant. From April 2015 the creation of a new department devoted to medieval art history broadens the research spectrum of the institute. Directed by Tanja Michalsky, the department will focus on repositioning the field of medieval studies and on methodological problems affecting this period between Antiquity and the Renaissance. Key areas of interest are the history of art of southern and central Italy and the Mediterranean.
Since the compilation of the Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known in the Renaissance – one of the first databases on the reception of classical works of art and architecture in the early modern era - the development of comprehensive research databases has been an important part of both Hertziana departments. Headed by Sybille Ebert-Schifferer since 2001, the ArsRoma database project has been gathering information on the production of art in Rome between 1580 and 1630. The Lineamenta project, on the other hand, initiated by Elisabeth Kieven in 2001, has been compiling a database of Roman architectural drawings dispersed throughout the world. Both databases work with ZUCCARO, a software developed at the Hertziana for the needs of researchers working in the humanities. The development of research-specific IT has become an integral part of the work done at the institute and provides researchers with important information.
Go to the Buildings of the Bibliotheca Hertziana
History of the Institute
Hertziana Guided Tours
»Bibliotheca Hertziana. Max-Planck-Institut«, Berichte und Mitteilungen 3 (1991).
Julia Laura Rischbieter, Henriette Hertz. Mäzenin und Gründerin der Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rom, Stuttgart 2004.
Denkorte. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft und Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft. Brüche und Kontinuitäten 1911–2011, ed. by Peter Gruss and Reinhard Rürup, with the collaboration of Susanne Kiewitz, Dresden 2010.
100 Jahre Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte. Die Geschichte des Instituts 1913–2013, ed. by Sybille Ebert-Schifferer, with the collaboration of Marieke von Bernstorff, Munich 2013.