The Vatican Museums are restarting the plan of cataloguing, digitising and securing the historical patrimony held in one of the Museums’ most essential Scientific Services: the Photo Library.
Since November 2021, a first selection of the Museums’ then little-known historical photographic collection has been remotely accessible free of charge via the Photo Library Online Catalogue. Now, a further significant batch of almost 900 new images will be just a click away, making accessible a collection that is rightfully an integral part of the Museum’s artistic treasury.
Indeed, recent digitalization contributes to enriching the corpus of Romualdo Moscioni (1849-1925), of which the Photo Library conserves the collection of the same name which constitutes the greater part of the collection realized by the photographer between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: there are various views of Rome, in particular of churches and monuments, and numerous reproductions of important works of statuary of the National Roman Museum and the Capitoline Museums.
There are images of absolute masterpieces of the Vatican Museums’ collections such as Giovanni Bellini’s Lament over the dead Christ and Leonardo’s Saint Jerome. These photographs bear witness to the restoration works performed by the Paintings Restoration Laboratory in the mid-twentieth century: valuable documents of the intense activity of research and conservation that inspires the Pope’s Museums. A further emblematic example of this is the photographic documentation of the mosaics of the triumphal arch of the Roman church of Saint Lawrence Outside-the-Walls, which was carried out in the wake of the 1943 bombing, in the course of an inspection of the Vatican laboratories with a view to restoration.
A significant number of negatives testify to the entry of new works in the Vatican collections: for example, the seventeenth-century Emilian and Neapolitan paintings, donated to the Holy See by Antonio Castellano between 1924 and 1929.
The study, conservation and cataloguing of the photographic prints continues. It is the case of the Fondo Ferper, acronym of Ferdinando Perez, Argentine ambassador to Italy and a gifted photographer, who in the early 1930s donated to Pope Pius XI some 1150 photographic prints he had made of paintings in the major national museums. The collection is now “restored” in new containers and envelopes, and adequately catalogued for easier consultation.