Vertova Photo Archive

In March 2018 the photo archive of art historian Luisa Vertova was donated to the Federico Zeri Foundation together with a collection of monographs, nearly 130 auction catalogues and the scholar’s entire professional correspondence.

By its more than 700 photo objects (silver gelatin prints and negatives in various formats) the archive documents Italian 19th and 20th century works of art and a set of paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Some folders are in order of artist, others chronological by way of documenting Christie’s sales that Vertova curated personally when working for the auction house. This precious material, running to over 400 photos, provides an unusual perspective on the phases comprising auction sales and their respective catalogues. Many of the photos were taken in the 1970s and 1980s by firms commissioned by Christie’s, such as Luigi Artini from Florence and Cooper’s of London.

Luisa Vertova (1921) studied history of art and archaeology at Florence University during the first half of the 1940s. At the war’s end she worked with Bernard Berenson and undertook to rearrange the Villa I Tatti Photo Archive. From the early 1970s on she began her career with Christie’s, curating many sales held in the Italian branches through the 1980s. Her personal research focused on connoisseurship – outstanding studies being on 17th-century Lombard painters – leading her to direct some major publishing projects like publishing Berenson’s output on Drawings by Florentine painters (1961) and Caravaggism in Europe by Ben Nicolson.

An archive description of the whole collection will be available online as of October 2020.