Annual Reports of the Max Planck Society


  • “Wastework” or “Waste, Heritage and Art History”

    2022 Borgo, Francesca
    A research project led by the Lise Meitner Group at the Bibliotheca Hertziana is exploring waste, heritage and the links between the two. Taking a historical approach, it analyses the ways in which by-products of early modern artistic processes were not wasted but rather reused, often in other objects. The group also takes a contemporary view, reflecting on the role waste as a cultural product has played and continues to play in shaping our societies. The group’s ongoing “Wastework” initiative ties both these research strands together.


  • Naples on film (1932–1963). Urbanism, space, time

    2021 Carlo Ugolotti
    This research project provides an analysis of the different cinematic representations of Neapolitan urban space across the first half of the XXth Century – from Fascist Cinema up to the Early Sixties. The analysis focuses on how the image of the city has been constructed by films throughout these decades. The recurrent features of Cinematic Naples have been identified and analysed under the categories of temporality and spatiality in order to attest how Naples can be considered a unique setting for Italian cinema.


  • Mapping sacred space

    2020 Scirocco, Elisabetta; Longo, Ruggero
    A medieval church was a complex system in which spaces, objects and decorations provided the framework for the liturgy but also the scenario for a variety of other social activities. By integrating archaeometric analyses into research methods of archaeology and art history and with the help of digital technologies, a project of the Bibliotheca Hertziana investigates forms, functions and the aesthetics of medieval sacred spaces through digital mapping and 3D reconstructions.


  • Communicating the previously invisible: Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and his microscopic experiments

    2019 Fransen, Sietske; Cocquyt, Tiemen; van Egmond, Wim; Kusukawa, Sachiko
    To understand better the methods of visual communication of new scientific discoveries in the seventeenth century, this project focusses on the Dutch microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. With a team of experts on visual culture, early modern microscopy, and modern photomicrography, we investigated the earliest surviving microscopic specimens made by Leeuwenhoek himself through one of his hand-made microscopes. We compared the results to his original letters and drawings, resulting into new insights into the epistemological value of drawings in the seventeenth-century microscopy.


  • Making the present through exhibitions. The case of postwar Rome

    2018 Bremer, Maria
    Focusing on the context of postwar Rome, this project explores the capacity of exhibitions to write the history of their time. With the exhibitionary concepts developed in postwar Rome I pick up on early, site-specific readings of the contemporary. These should provide alternatives to today’s one-sided understanding of the term as an effect of global economies.


  • Materiality and Idolatry: Roman Imaginations of Saint Rose of Lima

    2017 Weddigen, Tristan
    In missionizing the New World, works of art propagated Catholic faith and served as examples for the right cult of images. When Rosa de Santa María from Lima was beatified in 1668 and canonized in 1671, her iconographic persona needed to be created and propagated. A painting by Lazzaro Baldi and a marble sculpture by Melchiorre Cafà show that the balance of power between papal Rome and Spanish Lima was negotiated by artistic means and that issues of materiality and idolatry were considered from a transcultural point of view.


  • The depiction of nature as cultural negotiation: Landscape in the work of Netherlanders in Rome

    2016 Reitz, Evelyn

    Around 1600, modern landscape painting blossomed as a distinct artistic genre. A research project at the Bibliotheca Hertziana explores the diverse ways in which Netherlandish artists in Rome contributed to this development. From the comparison of exemplary artistic careers, it becomes evident that the new perception of landscape did not only result from an intensive study of nature, but also from the cultural exchanges catalyzed by the experience of migration.


  • Historical constructions of urban and rural space in pre-modern Italy

    2015 Michalsky, Tanja

    Historical spaces can be reconstructed only as conveyed by their representations in various media. In addition to selected case studies reconstructing pre-modern spaces in southern Italy and Naples, a project at the Bibliotheca Hertziana particularly addresses historical spatial constructions themselves. Investigating the interplay of several media that construct space, the project traces the historical process through which the spaces were collectively perceived and defined. The aim is to develop a dynamic model of space that situates art historical objects in a more nuanced manner.


  • Roma communis patria. The national churches in Rome from the Middle Ages to the modern era

    2014 Kubersky-Piredda, Susanne; Daniels, Tobias

    The Minerva Research Group at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max-Planck Institute for Art History, examines the National Churches of Rome from the Middle Ages to the modern era. Central to its work is the question of how collective identities were developed in the Eternal City and expressed through art. An interdisciplinary team of scholars seeks to present for the first time ever a comprehensive analysis of the foreign communities of Rome and their art in order to illustrate the historical foundations of Europe via the Roman example.



  • Italy in China: The Western Buildings in the Old Summer Palace Yuanmingyuan in Beijing

    2012 Schlimme, Hermann

    The research project of the Beijing Tsinghua Tongheng Urban Planning & Design Institute THUPDI (Tsinghua University Beijing) and the Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max Planck Institute for Art History, Rome) is devoted to the Western Buildings in the Old Summer Palace Yuanmingyuan in Beijing. The project investigates the interaction between Western architectural forms and Chinese concepts of architecture. It examines how Chinese builders adapted indigenous and imported construction methods to realise the Western palaces and how this intercultural moment was received.


  • Spazio figurato and the Medieval Perception of Space

    2011 Geymonat, Ludovico Vittorio
    A research project at the Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max Planck Institute for Art History, Rome) studies the interactions among figures, space and beholder. The working term spazio figurato denotes spaces designed to house an encounter with figures specifically created to be placed within them. Focusing on medieval spazi figurati, the project aims to understand how these interactions have changed over time and how these spaces are perceived.


  • Optical knowledge in the history of painting

    2010 Thielemann, Andreas
    What are the connections between the history of optics and the history of painting? A research project at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome (Max Planck Institute for Art History) explores this question, with an orientation based on the classification system of classical optics, which as a theory of vision and of light in late Antiquity was divided into three principal areas: direct vision based on the rectilinear diffusion of light, reflection on reflective surfaces, and the refraction of light rays on the interface between media of different densities.


  • Hitler in Rome, 1938

    2009 Dobler, Ralph-Miklas
    A Bibliotheca Hertziana research project looks at the official art and architecture in Fascist Italy between 1936 and 1943, during the period of the ‘Rome-Berlin Axis’ proclaimed by Mussolini. The way in which the regime presented itself and the way in which the two totalitarian states perceived and influenced each other is of particular interest. The study focuses on Adolf Hitler’s visit to Rome in 1938, the events leading up to it and its consequences.


  • The Art of Giving: Exchange of Diplomatic Gifts Between Italy and Spain During The Sixteenth Century

    2008 Kubersky-Piredda, Susanne
    One of the research projects at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome deals with the exchange of diplomatic gifts between Italy and Spain during the sixteenth century. Italian princes offered elaborate works of art to the Spanish king Philip II to demonstrate political loyalty, but also to distinguish themselves before Europe’s most powerful ruler. Ambassadors and agents were responsible for procuring and delivering these diplomatic gifts, and in order to do so they had to be familiar with official political events as well as with internal court intrigues. During the 1580s Philip II employed one of his court jesters, Gonzalo de Liaño, as a middleman on diplomatic missions to Italy. The correspondence of this curious figure offers new insights into early modern court culture.


  • The Idea of Rome in the Public Representation of the Cesarini Family during the Sixteenth Century

    2007 Sickel, Lothar
    At the end of the fifteenth Century the Cesarini family ascended to the nobility of Rome. In order to consolidate this position, they developed specific strategies: They claimed to descend from the ancient nobility of Rome and they exploited their office of the Roman standard-bearer (Gonfaloniere) to demonstrate their close connection with the traditions of Rome. A study in the Research Area „Malerei und Bildkünste der Frühen Neuzeit“ of the Bibliotheca Hertziana reconstructs these strategies in detail.


  • Agents, a new research field in the area of historical comparatism: The case of the Roman antiquarian Johann Friedrich Reiffenstein (1719–1793)

    2006 Prof. Dr. Christoph Frank,
    Early modern agents, key figures in the mediation of cultural and scientific concepts, have come into the focus of research. On the basis of the correspondence of the Roman agent Johann Friedrich Reiffenstein (1719-1793), which for the first time has been reconstructed from German, Italian and foremost Russian archives, an attempt is made to analyse the communicative patterns of the transfer of aesthetic, artistic and scientific concepts from late enlightened Rome to the Northern and Eastern European periphery.
  • Caravaggio, an honourable intellectual

    2006 Ebert-Schifferer, Sybille
    Caravaggio’s cult status is largely based on clichés surrounding the painter’s notoriety as a criminal bohemian. The Bibliotheca Hertziana has embarked on a long-term research project, the first phase of which seeks to re-examine the artist’s life in the light of contemporary sources and the interdisciplinary context of recent historical research. What emerges from this investigation is the picture of an (almost) normal life amidst an ambitious and enterprising middle class.


  • Cupid at the Fountain or the limits of painting

    2005 Julian Matthias Kliemann
    Researchers in the 1980s believed Cecco del Caravaggio’s ‘Cupid at the Fountain’ to be ‘perhaps the most shameless painting ever to emerge from the time and artistic milieu [of Caravaggio]’. However, such an interpretation, derived solely from the supposed sexual disposition of the artist, cannot explain many details within the painting. In fact, the painting illustrates amor Dei, the desire for God. If one accepts this interpretation of the painting the composition as a whole unfolds as a highly complex reflection upon the possibilities and limitations of a realistic religious painting.
  • Digilib: studying und annotating scholarly images via internet

    2005 Raspe, Martin; Robert Casties
    Digilib is a software tool for the scholarly study of images via internet. Images can be zoomed and annotated in a persistent way. It was developed as open source software by the Berlin Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome in collaboration with the Institute for History and Philosophy of Science at Bern University. Digilib opens up new perspectives of scholarly research working on digital images.


  • Pietro Cavallini’s frescoes in Santa Cecilia in Trastevere: recording and reconstruction of the painted decorative system using a tachymeter

    2004 Schmitz, Michael
    Pietro Cavallini, the most important painter of the Middle Ages in Rome, undertook around 1300 the task of decorating the nave of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere with an expansive cycle of frescoes. By applying the frescoes to the walls of the structure which was built some 500 years earlier, a remarkable ensemble was created. Only about ten percent of the original painted decoration has survived because of the complete refurbishing of the church in later centuries; it is no longer visible from the nave. A tachymeter was used to record the still existing fragments of these frescoes on the Carolingian walls. In addition it was possible to reconstruct the highly developed decorative system of the workshop of Cavallini for the first time.


  • Construction Knowledge in Italy 1600-1750. Architects - Engineers - Mathematicians -

    2003 Schlimme, Hermann
    Since the late sixteenth century an empirical, experiment-based approach to the understanding of nature came to play an ever more important role. Craft processes and especially building techniques like the construction of scaffoldings and vaulted ceilings, or the preparation of building materials, were understood as experiments with nature and as the suitable starting-point for reflections on the principles of the natural sciences. After the theory of building construction had ceased to depend entirely on classical philology and after the restrictive structures of the medieval guilds began to disintegrate, the new systematic determination of the physical foundations of craft techniques led to the accumulation of an alternative building knowledge, based on the findings of natural science. The knowledge of mathematicians or philosophers on the one hand, and architects, engineers and building workers on the other, are systematically compared and analysed for the first time in the research project "Construction Knowledge in Italy 1600-1750".
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