Session Chair, “Historic Libraries and the Early Historiography of Art”
107th Annual Conference, College Art Association
Historic libraries offer underutilized resources for understanding art history. This session explores the potential of such collections – whether intended explicitly for the study of art or not – to deepen and broaden our interpretation of art historiography and its relationship to social, intellectual and geopolitical currents. Libraries significant for these purposes include those of Count Leopoldo Cicognara, Rodolfo Lanciani and the twelfth Duke of Osuna, formed in the eighteenth through twentieth centuries and largely intact, as well as those that survive partially or in inventory form, such as that (c. 1600) of Xu Bo. Cicognara’s library, for example, offers a view of the history and geography of art at a key moment for shifting geopolitical conceptualizations of Europe. President of the Venetian Academy of Art when Venice shifted from Napoleonic French to Habsburg Austrian control, Cicognara wished his library to contribute to Italy’s ability to compete for cultural eminence. For him, as for scholars throughout post-Napoleonic Europe, study of artistic heritage and shaping nationhood went hand in hand. But his collection, like others of its day, reflects more than patriotism. It underlines his effort to define an inchoate discipline through a wide spectrum of printed materials, including ephemera. It also demonstrates his active participation in art historical debates and connections with artists and arts administrators in Italy and beyond. By addressing Cicognara’s, Lanciani’s, Osuna’s and Xu’s libraries using diverse methodological lenses, this session seeks to expand avenues into the history of our discipline.