Luisa Vertova’s papers and photographs donated to I Tatti

February 22, 2023
Luisa Vertova at I Tatti

I Tatti is pleased to announce the generous gift from Vanessa Nicolson of the bulk of the personal and professional papers and the photograph collection left by her late mother, art historian Luisa Vertova (1920-2021). Occupying around eighty archival boxes, the collection comprises over 5,000 mainly b/w photographs and hundreds of negatives and transparencies, along with a mass of other documents such as correspondence, research notes, postcards, clippings, reproductions, typescripts, offprints, etc. It includes materials originally given to I Tatti by Luisa Vertova herself. 

For more than a decade following WWII, the young Vertova worked as Bernard Berenson’s assistant, helping to reorganize his photo archive at I Tatti, revising his famous “Lists,” and translating into Italian his most important work, Drawings of the Florentine Painters. At least eight boxes of materials document this period of her activity, as well as her continuing relationship with Berenson and his circle after she married art historian Benedict Nicolson and moved to England in 1955, and beyond, after Berenson's death in 1959. Included here, for example, are over 300 letters from 1946 to 1970 between Vertova and Berenson’s companion Nicky Mariano and her sister Alda Anrep, I Tatti's librarian until 1962.

The Luisa Vertova collection offers critical testimony not only of her work with Berenson and others in his orbit, but also of her own prolific and influential career later as an art historian specialized in Italian Renaissance and Baroque drawings and paintings, including her many years of employment at Christie’s in London as a consultant for Italian art. Much of the material is arranged in folders containing photos and related documents on specific artists or themes, focused mainly but not solely on Italian art and artists from the 15th to the 17th century. Other parts preserve preparatory matter for her many publications on art historical topics, including her revised edition of her late husband's Caravaggism in Europe

The extensive papers and photographs of Luisa Vertova, which the archives team is gradually organizing and processing, represent a rich addition to the Berenson Library’s archival collections. They are sure to cast new light on Berenson and I Tatti during the years she was so closely associated with him and his photo archive, but also on her own productive art historical career. I Tatti is deeply grateful to Luisa Vertova and to Vanessa Nicolson for this important donation.