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


At the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century Florence was one of the centres of trade in art and antiques. European and American collectors and museum directors visited the city on the Arno or made use of local contacts in order to acquire works, above all from the Italian Middle Ages and Renaissance, for their collections. Elia Volpi and the renowned Stefano Bardini were both counted among the most successful antiquarians of this time. The former was not only a successful dealer: his activities ranged from painting to restoration and collecting. The examination of his photographic legacy, in part donated to the Photo Library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence by Volpi's heirs in 1983 (other material is conserved at Palazzo Davanzati, Florence) as well as being the subject of this online exhibition, allows not only the reconstruction of important stages in the biography of Volpi but is also informative in general terms on the use of the photograph in the context of the antiques market. The numerous signs of use on the images are considerable evidence of this. During the preparation of the exhibition the “digital” restoration of the partly damaged photographs was therefore avoided as the task of a photo archive is not to conceal the materiality of the objects but rather, on the contrary, to highlight it and make it accessible to research in its authenticity.

Costanza Caraffa

© KHI in Florence | 20.10.2021 12:44:44