Economic Virtue & History of Art: Federico Zeri’s Foundation case study


Economic Virtue & History of Art can happily mix together and give birth to an excellent Cultural Institution in Italy, in spite of the global crisis. This is the case for Federico Zeri‘s Foundation, that since 1998 is worldwide recognised as the Lead Center for Photographs of ancient Italian Art.

This article is written for the candidature for FLORENS 2012, section Economy through Culture. The topic will be discussed during this important institutional week, in November 2012. Find out more on

Located in the restored convent of Santa Cristina, a Renaissance complex in the heart of Bologna‘s city centre,
it is equipped to house the photograph library, the art library and a study centre with a large reading room and computer stations for on-line consultation. The library has been installed thanks to a contribution from the Banks Monte di Bologna e Ravenna Foundation.

The Foundation preserves in its archive 290,000 photos of art works and monuments.
Over the years whole photograph collections previously owned by scholars, auction houses and antique dealers were saved by Zeri from dispersion or destruction.He collected photographic campaigns, complete with paintings, on historic building complexes and fresco cycles.

Types of Photographs:
-Black and white prints on paperincluding : gelatin silver prints, albumen prints, carbon prints, and collotypes.
-Colour prints and slides, coming from State photography archives (such as Fototeca Nazionale, Soprintendenze), from Italian and foreign museums, private archives and collections.

Besides its rich Italian painting collection (148,000 photographs), the archive contains sizable core collections covering:
– Applied arts (18,000 photos)
– Italian sculpture (16,000)
– Drawings (12,700)
– Architecture (8,800)
– Miniatures(5,500)
– Archaeology (3,600)
– Icons and Trompe l’oeil

Perhaps the richest and most valuable such core collection is the one on Italian and European still lifes(14,000 photos). Its Photograph Library Catalogue is the most important in the whole world for ITALIAN ART

But Federico Zeri’s Foundation is also a Public Specialised Library in the heart of the oldest University in Europe, a specialised training center for Humanities and Arts, a Scientific recognised publisher and it represents an excellence in the field of Art History Research.

Directed by Doctor Anna Ottani Cavina, the Foundation is famous for its Human Ressources, expertise of Italian Art History.

Scientif Committe members include:
Andrea Bacchi, University of Trento
Daniele Benati, University of Bologna
Francesco Caglioti, University of Federico II di Napoli
Enrico Castelnuovo, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, emerit member
Everett Fahy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, emerit Chairman
David Freedberg, Italian Academy at Columbia University, New York, Director
Elio Garzillo, MIBAC
Mina Gregori, Roberto Longhi Foundation, Florence, President
Michel Laclotte, Louvre Museum, emerit President
Mauro Natale, University of Génève
Antonio Paolucci,Vatican Museums, Director
Simonetta Prosperi Valenti Rodinò, University of Roma Tor Vergata
Pierre Rosenberg de l’Académie française, Louvre Museum

To know 


About Odile Milton

I travel through words whenever possible. Odile Milton is my signature on the web as I wanted an alter ego to indicate only my writings and works, not my personal life. Odile like the dancer in black swan, and Milton from the novel An old-fashioned girl. View all posts by Odile Milton

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