Based in Rome, the Bibliotheca Hertziana is one of the institutes in the humanities and social sciences section of the Max Planck Society, Germany’s most successful research organization. The institute was opened in 1913 under the umbrella of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (from 1948 Max Planck Society) which had been founded only two years earlier. It is thus one of the oldest institutes and also the first one to be dedicated to the humanities within the Max Planck Society.
Situated in central Rome, in the immediate vicinity of the famous Spanish Steps, the Bibliotheca Hertziana owes its existence to the generosity of Henriette Hertz (1846–1913), who provided the Palazzo Zuccari – complete with a well-stocked specialist library and an extensive photographic collection – as the seat of the research institute. The institute’s excellent library and comprehensive photographic collection, not to mention its proximity to objects, monuments, archives and museums, conservation authorities, universities and international institutions in Rome, make the Hertziana one of the world’s most renowned research institutes for Italian and, more specifically, Roman history of art.
The Photographic Collection goes back to the collection of around 20,000 photographs put together by Henriette Hertz and Ernst Steinmann, the first director of the Bibliotheca Hertziana. The collection holds now more than 850,000 positives, negatives and digital images. Core areas of the collection focus on Roman and Italian topography, Italian artists, and drawings. The latter comprise Old Master drawings, architectural drawings and drawings after antiquities as well as the complete Corpus Photographicum of Drawings (Corpus Gernsheim). A special niche is devoted to the holdings of prints, arranged after the catalogues of “Bartsch” and “Le Blanc”.
The online catalogue of the Photographic Collection currently shows records of approximately 350,000 photographs ranging from architecture to paintings, drawings, sculpture, applied arts and more. It includes all photographs acquired since 1995 as well as selected sections of the older holdings and is partially illustrated by ca. 180,000 digital images, consisting of scanned negatives and positives of our archive, digital photographic campaigns and digital images from other institutions and external photographers. The latter are partially copyrighted and can only be accessed on the Bibliotheca Hertziana Intranet rather than the Internet.
The collection is continuously expanded through photographic campaigns, systematic purchases and the acquisition of archives, furthermore by photographic estates of renowned art historians (Richard Krautheimer, Hanno Hahn, Heinrich Mathias Schwarz, Hanno-Walter Kruft, Hans Werner Schmidt, Francesco Negri Arnoldi, Matthias Winner, Joachim Poeschke and others).
The Photographic Collection also organizes the annual “Gernsheim Study Days” focusing on various aspects of drawings (e.g. “Drawings for and after Sculpture”, or “Abbreviation, Contraction and Formula in Early Modern Drawings”). Other conferences concentrate on the role and appearance of photography in the 19th century.