History of the Photographic collection

The photographic collection goes back to the collection of approximately 11,500 photographs put together by Henriette Hertz and Ernst Steinmann and bequeathed to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society as part of the Bibliotheca Hertziana in 1913. After Henriette Hertz’s death, Steinmann continued to build on these original holdings, which consisted primarily of photographs of Old Master drawings and paintings. Steinmann’s additions reflect the thematic focus of the institute on the Italian Renaissance as well as his own interest in the art of Michelangelo. In the 1930s the scope of the library was broadened to include the Middle Ages, with much of the material contributed by photographic campaigns conducted by members of the institute’s academic staff and, later, a professional photographer. Around the same time, departments were set up for architecture and sculpture. By the mid-1930s the institute had amassed an outstanding photographic collection. Freely accessible to all researchers at the Hertziana, it complemented the holdings of the book library and constituted a uniquely useful research tool.

The photographic collection on the ground floor of the Palazzo Zuccari, c. 1925, picture taken by Cesare Faraglia

Since the reopening of the Bibliotheca Hertziana in 1953, the holdings of by then nearly 50,000 photographs have been systematically expanded and consolidated as an academic research collection. The photographic collection is designed to support the institute’s research projects and to provide the broadest possible documentation of all forms of art produced in central and southern Italy between the third/fourth and the early twentieth century. To this end the library continues to pursue an active acquisitions policy and undertakes targeted photographic campaigns of its own.

Important for the development after 1953 was the desire of the Unione Internazionale degli Istituti di Archeologia Storia e Storia dell’Arte in Roma to house the Fototeca di arte post-antica romana (established in 1956, current holdings c. 25,000 photographs) at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome. Whereas the initial focus of the collection was primarily on High Renaissance and Baroque painting, drawing and architecture in Rome, this was expanded in the 1970s to include the eighteenth century. The original holdings of photographs of architectural drawings and drawings after antiquities have been systematically expanded since the 1950s and now represent a uniquely comprehensive collection. The same is true for the collection of photographs of figure drawings, which has seen significant growth since the early 1980s thanks to a project on Baroque drawings. In 2002 Walter and Jutta Gernsheim presented the fototeca with a complete set of the Corpus Photographicum of Drawings. This generous gift, consisting of more than 193,000 photographs, established the Hertziana photographic collection as a major centre for drawing research. Between 1953 and 2002, when digital photography found its way into the fototeca, the holdings increased more than tenfold and now run to approximately 800,000 photographs (including digital images). Computer-aided cataloguing with the database system HIDA/MIDAS used by Bildarchiv Foto Marburg was introduced as early as 1994. To date, some 270,000 datasets and 100,000 digital images are searchable online.

After the successfully concluded move out of the Villino Stroganoff and into the Palazzo Zuccari and the new library tract the photographic collection and the book library are reunited, bringing to an end a near twenty-year period of separation.

Further Reading

Regine Schallert and Johannes Röll: »La Fototeca della Bibliotheca Hertziana (Istituto Max Planck per la Storia dell’Arte)«, in Immagini e memoria, Gli Archivi fotografici di Istituzioni culturali della città di Roma, Atti del convegno, Roma, Palazzo Barberini, 3–4 Dezember 2012, ed. by Barbara Fabjan, Rome 2014, pp. 169–182.

Regine Schallert: »Die Fotothek: ...dass ein Forscher jedwedes Material hier einsehen kann«, in 100 Jahre Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte. Band I: Die Geschichte des Instituts 1913–2013, ed. by Sybille Ebert-Schifferer with the collaboration of Marieke von Bernstorff, Munich 2013, pp. 226-245, 310-314.