Photograph Archives




With its origins in the pioneering work of Bernard and Mary Berenson, the Fototeca, or Photograph Archive, has long been celebrated as an outstanding resource for the study of the history of art. Now holding around 300,000 photographic prints and other related materials, the still-growing collection contains photographs of artworks in many media ranging from Antiquity to the middle of the 20th century, focusing on the Mediterranean basin but including other parts of the world. Its spotlight is on Italian art, especially painting and drawing, of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance from 1250 to 1600, and it is only this part of the collection that continues to be developed systematically.

These visual and textual records document the Berensons’ working methods and Bernard's influential career as art critic and connoisseur. They also furnish a wealth of evidence on individual works of art, for instance their passages through successive collections or art dealers’ hands, or traces of restorations over time. The archive's images throw critical light too on such general art historical issues as photography in the service of art history, the history of collecting, and the twentieth-century art market.


The bulk of the library's core photograph collection is arranged geographically and then by artist in chronological order. The Florentine, Sienese, Venetian, North, Central and South Italian schools now are represented by more than 153,000 photographs. An additional 17,000 photographs document Later Italian painting (17th - 20th cent.) and Italian sculpture. There is a vast documentation for this part of the collection, as a single artwork is often represented by multiple prints from different periods. After Berenson’s death many study photo archives once belonging to other art historians or conservators were added to the original nucleus. These include, for example, photographs from Hermann Voss (1884-1969), George Kaftal (1897-1987), Henry P. Clifford (1904-1975), Giuseppe Marchini (1914-1986), Frederick Hartt (1914-1991), Gerhard Ewald (1927-1997), Andrea Rothe, and the Studio Cabras.

For all artists, collection-level records for individual artists or distinct groups have been created and are available through Hollis catalog. These artist files provide a summary description of the holdings in order to facilitate users' research. A significant number of the photographs has been cataloged individually and images and catalog entries are accessible through Harvard Library's catalogs.


Berenson’s wide interests beyond the Italian Renaissance are reflected in his photo collection. Important materials acquired by Berenson or sent to him by art dealers and private collectors are found also in minor sections, which include illuminated manuscripts, Italian sculpture, architecture, and views; later (that is, late 16th- to 20th-century) Italian painting; archaeology; early Christian, Byzantine and medieval art; applied arts; and non-Italian art. Of particular importance are the Asian and Islamic materials, including some 2800 vintage prints from the negatives taken by Islamic architectural historian Sir Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell (1879-1974), and now held by the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford.


Non-Italian painting

10 linear feet of the collection include paintings and drawings of the American, British, French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Flemish schools.


Asian & Islamic collection

The collection includes splendid views of India acquired by Berenson around 1914 from the photographers Johnston and Hoffmann, based in Calcutta. These 2,201 gelatin prints illustrate monuments in India, Sri Lanka and other parts of south Asia, such temples, caves and other religious buildings--some famous and others unknown to the general public--which are often shown within their natural setting or with people worshipping or conducting ritual ablutions.

In addition to that, 982 photographs document Japanese paintings and sculptures held in museums or private collections in America, Europe and Japan. Most are artifacts in the Fogg Museum (Cambridge), Museo d'arte Orientale E. Chiossone (Genoa) and in Japanese collections in Hyōgo, Kanagawa, Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo.

The Chinese art section includes 982 reproductions of paintings, sculptures, bronzes, porcelain, jades, textiles, and ambers held in museums or private collections in America, Europe and Australia. Of particular interest are 8 panoramic photographs and the rubbings of Han tombstones.



The Antiquities part of the collection consists of 4,500 images of antiquities in Europe, Middle East, and North Africa. Most of the photographs show temples, statues, mosaics, and ceramics in Egypt, Greece, and Italy as they were in the first half of the 20th century. A significant number of photos document objects and archaeological sites in Athens, Istanbul, Naples, and Rome. Other images of special interest depict Theban tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.


Byzantine art & architecture

Approximately 4,000 images of Early Christian and Byzantine monuments in various countries in the eastern Mediterranean. Most of the photographs show churches, paintings, and mosaics in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Turkey, and the Middle East as they were before 1930. These were acquired by Berenson from art historians Arthur Kingsley Porter (1883-1933) and Gabriel Millet (1867-1953), while other photos of icons, ivories, jewelry and textiles were sent by American and European art collectors. A significant number of photographs were taken by photographers Josephine Powell, Theron J. Damon Giorgos Lykides, Carlo Naya, Osvaldo Böhm, and the Istanbul based photography studio of Sebah and Joaillier.