An Art Dealer's Photographs: The Collection of Elia Volpi

Volpi and Bardini

Volpi's success as an art dealer is closely linked to Stefano Bardini, one of the most successful Italian antiquarians after 1870. The museum he founded is still to this day an attraction for visitors to Florence. Like Volpi after him, Bardini also started his career as a painter and restorer, then going on to create a reputation as an art dealer and collector, attracting and retaining a wealthy international clientele. His gallery was supported by a restoration workshop with whom Volpi started to collaborate around 1883. Thanks to this collaboration the student, 22 years younger, not only had the opportunity of gaining a wealth of experience in the restoration field, but it was also an opportunity to mix with artists and artisans, who would have worked for him afterwards, as well as eminent collectors such as Bernard Berenson. The collaboration with Bardini is documented, inter alia, by the photograph of the panel depicting Saint Sebastian, which in 1894 was owned by Bardini. It is possible that Volpi had restored the painting before it was sold to a buyer from London in 1895. In the mid-1890s, however, the partnership broke down: it is likely that Volpi had begun to make his own business deals, leaving Bardini in the dark. Although Bardini attempted to ignore his former collaborator from that moment onwards, in the long run he could not help but note his growing professional successes in the antiques business. Finally, on the back of Volpi's resounding commercial success in America, he instructed him to organize an auction of his collection in New York in 1918. Volpi's legacy includes some photographs taken especially for the auction catalogue: the red numbers handwritten on the images correspond to the numbers of the objects in the catalogue.

Unidentified photographer: Saint Sebastian, Matteo di Giovanni, London, National Gallery. Aristotype with handwritten notes on the back, 20,5 x 14,1 cm, before 1895, inv. no. 607432

Unidentified photographer: Saint George and the Dragon, Paolo Uccello, Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André. Albumin print, 9,6 x 14,6 cm, before 1899, inv. no. 607435

Bardini, Stefano?: Melpomene, Alessandro Pampurino from the ceiling fresco of Palazzo Maffi in Cremona, London, Victoria and Albert Museum. Albumin print, 1884/1889, 25,4 x 19,3 cm, inv. no. 607436

Unidentified photographer: Madonna and Child, Saints and Benefactor, attributed to Luca della Robbia, sold on auction Volpi, New York 1927, Florence, Private Collection. Silver bromide gelatine print, 25,8 x 19,7 cm, before 1927, inv. no. 607434

Bardini, Stefano?: Madonna and Child, 19th century? Silver gelatine print, 21,8 x 13,4 cm, before 1900, inv. no. 607435

Unidentified photographer: Sculptures of the Bardini Collection in Florence, put up for sale by auction in 1918, New York. Silver gelatine print with handwritten numbers based on the auction catalogue, 18,3 x 18 cm, c. 1918, inv. no. 430718

Unidentified photographer: Terracotta Madonnas in the Bardini Collection in Florence, put up for sale by auction in 1918, New York. Silver gelatine print with handwritten numbers based on the auction catalogue, 20,8 x 19 cm, vor 1918, inv. no. 436274

Unidentified photographer: Madonna with Child, 14th century, on a romanic pillar in the Bardini Collection, put up for sale by auction in 1918. Silver gelatine print with numbers based on the auction catalogue, 23,5 x 4,5 cm, ca.1918, inv. no. 430729

Unidentified photographer: Madonna and Child, Umbria, first part of the 16th century, unknown location. Silver bromide gelatin, on the back stamp of the art dealer Cesare Centra, 10,3 x 7,6 cm, 1920/30, inv. no. 607431

Unidentified photographer: The Triumph of David, Pesellino. Albumin print, 10,6 x 30,7 cm, before 1896, inv. no. 607433

© KHI in Florence | 28.11.2020 11:33:11