Constitutive Bibliography: Leopoldo Cicognara’s and Julius von Schlosser’s Italian Art Bibliographies
Two Italian art bibliographies written a century apart demonstrate the power of bibliography to constitute a discipline within a specific intellectual and cultural framework. Comparative analysis of these works throws into relief the extent to which each employs bibliography as a vehicle to express deeply felt, and divergent, perspectives on the nature of Italy and the nature of art history. The earlier bibliography, Catalogo ragionato dei libri d’arte e d’antichità, published in 1821 by Leopolodo Cicognara, represents Cicognara’s personal library. While not presented as geographically specific, it conveys Cicognara’s overriding concern with Italy. As the first significant art bibliography, his catalogue exerted broad influence among European institutions devoted to the visual arts. Julius von Schlosser wrote the later bibliography (or, more properly, extended bibliographical essay), “Über die ältere Kunsthistoriographie der Italiener,“ in 1925; it appeared in Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Instituts für Geschichtsforschung four years later.
Both Cicognara and Schlosser were citizens of Austria – Cicognara of the Habsburg Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, and Schlosser of the First Austrian Republic. Both composed their works during restive moments in European history and in the discipline of art history. Cicognara, an enthusiast of the French Revolution, was appointed President of the Venetian Academy of Fine Arts when it was re-founded under Napoleon. He composed his bibliography during the reactionary Restoration period. Schlosser, an early proponent of Austrian Anschluss with Germany, chaired the “second” art history department at the University of Vienna. He expressed great admiration for Cicognara’s Catalago in his essay, which he composed in a resort area of Fascist Italy. Comparing these works underlines sharp differences in their relationship to an Italian nation and to the discipline of art history – neither of which had been fully formulated in Cicognara’s day, and both of which were sites of bitter conflict in Schlosser’s.