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Gustav Ludwig. The photographic bequest

Gustav Ludwig

When he died his contemporaries were unanimous: the now almost forgotten Gustav Ludwig (1854-1905) was one of the most outstanding art historians of his generation. After medical studies, he had settled in London at the age of 22 and remained active there as a physician for almost twenty years. Visits to numerous exhibitions in the metropolis on the Thames and friendship with the art dealer Jean Paul Richter soon gave him the entrée into the world of art history. When growing health problems forced him to give up his profession and abandon London in 1895, he moved to Vienna, where he pursued his art-historical studies, attending courses on old master paintings given by Theodor Frimmel. Even then it was already clear that Ludwig’s interest lay less in the study of style than in the foundations of art history, the study of the historical and archival sources, in order to reconstruct or recontextualise the history of individual works of art. This bias especially distinguished his studies in Venice, where he spent the last years of his life. At the same time Ludwig turned to advantage, as hardly any art historian before him, the innovative potential of photography for his art-historical research. He not only amassed an extensive photographic collection, but had actually studied the techniques of photography himself: in Vienna he chose to attend classes at a technical college for the study of photography (Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie und Reproduktionsverfahren), where among other things he familiarized himself with platinum prints, and also with techniques of photomontage. These interests are testified not only by the manuals on photography in Ludwig’s own library, which are now in the Library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, but also by one of Ludwig’s own photos (inv. 7439) and by a photographic collage of an altarpiece, which was dismantled in 1838 and its separate panels divided between various museums (inv. 8405).


Gustav Ludwig (1856-1905). From: Gustav Ludwig / Pompeo Molmenti: Vittore Carpaccio. La Vita e le Opere. Milan 1906, p. XI.

Carlo Naya: “Giovanni Bellini: Madonna and Child, Venice, Accademia” before 1905, albumen print, 26.1 x 20. 4 cm (photo), inv. no. 5932.

Unidentified photographer: “Andrea Mantegna: Resurrection of Christ, Vienna, Lichtenstein Collection [now Verduz?]“, before 1905, albumen print, 27.7 x 17.9 cm (photo), inv. no. 7758

Franz Hanfstaengl: “Paris Bordone: Madonna and Child enthroned with Saints, private collection? [now Warsaw, Muzeum Narodowe]“, 1897, albumen print, 26.0 x 17.7 cm (photo), inv. no. 7778

Unidentified photographer: “Giovanni Bellini (workshop): Annunciation with God the Father, Vienna, Akademie [now Venice, Accademia]“, before 1905, albumen print, 19.4 x 28.0 cm (photo), inv. no. 7526

Charles Heirieis: “Venetian [now A. Previtali]: Saint Sebastian, Aix-en-Provence, Musée Granet”, 1899, albumen print, 21.1 x 27.30 cm (photo), inv. no. 6179

Josef Löwy: “Paris Bordone: Kneeling Donor before Crucifix, Vienna, Czernin Collection [now Salzburg, Residenzgalerie]“, before 1905, albumen print, 19.3 x 22.5 cm (photo), inv. no. 7780

Nicht identifizierter Fotograf: “Bonifazio Veronese: Die Heiligen Beatrix, Hieronymus, Bruno und Katharina, Venedig, Accademia”, vor 1905, Albuminabzüge, darunter handschriftliche Notizen Ludwigs, 24,3 x 31,3 cm (Karton), Inv.-Nr. 8389

Luigi Dubray, “Ercole Roberti [now Andrea Mantegna (school)]: Drawing of scene of sacrifice with satyr, Cambridge/MA, Fogg Art Museum”, before 1905, albumen print, 17.0 x 18.5 cm (photo), inv. no. 6110

Unidentified photographer: “Andrea Previtali: John the Baptist, Oldenburg, Großherzogliche Sammlung [now Columbus/Ohio, Gallery of Fine Arts]”, before 1905, platinum print, 28.1 x 23.1 cm (photo), inv. no. 8304

Reproduction of platinum print of Andrea Previtali’s “John the Baptist” (inv. no. 8304) on the rear side of a photographic mount (inv. no. 7662)

Gustav Ludwig: “Michele Lambertini [now Antonio Vivarini]: Altarpiece with Christ’s Passion, Vienna, Akademie [now Venice, Ca’ d’Oro])”, 1895/96?, albumen print, 43.4 x 65.5 cm (mount), inv. no. 7439.

Ludwig’s reconstruction of the panel by Cima da Conegliano and his workshop with Saint Mark, two further Saints, Justitia and Temperantia, photomontage, c.1900, albumen print, with Ludwig’s handwritten annotations, 30.1 x 48.2 cm (mount), inv. no. 8405

E. A. Just: Rathegeber für den Positivprocess auf Albumenpapier (technical manual on positive process on albumen paper). Vienna 1887. From Gustav Ludwig’s library, now Library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, shelf mark Y 4930




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Josef Löwy: “Paris Bordone: Kneeling Donor before Crucifix, Vienna, Czernin Collection [now Salzburg, Residenzgalerie]“, before 1905, albumen print, 19.3 x 22.5 cm (photo), inv. no. 7780

© KHI in Florence | 21.10.2021 11:26:11