THE BIBLIOTECA DI DISEGNIThe largest collection in the world of Italian drawings from the 15th to the18th century printed by means of the refined 19th century technique of collotype in an extraordinary and unique work
THE SET IS COMPRISED OF 28 VOLUMES, PLUS AN INDEX VOLUME, CONTAINING MORE THAN 1,200 DRAWINGS PRINTED WITH THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE FIDELITY IN A TRUE FACSIMILE AND MOUNTED ON FABRIANO BOARD WITH THE BLIND STAMP OF THE ALINARI PRINT WORKS. THE WORK WAS REALIZED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF AN INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE HIGHEST LEVEL. THE DRAWINGS, FOR THE MOST PART UNPUBLISHED, CAME FROM THE 80 MOST IMPORTANT MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES IN THE WORLD.
The Drawing is one of the least explored, but most fascinating mediums of Art. Only recently have critics fully recognized the importance of its role as a witness to the birth and growth of a work of art, the expression of the artist’s original idea, not yet filtered through re-elaboration. Its spontaneity, its reflection of the artist’s creative impulse is what led eventually to the modern drawing or sketch, which involves fashion, industrial design, architecture, theatre sets, etc. Better than any other more meditated or finished form of expression, the drawing reveals by the very nature of the media employed (charcoal, chalk, pencil), the “mark” of the artist and permits us to better comprehend the idea and the work itself.
Drawings were held in high esteem by the great collectors and scholars of the past. Vasari, the foremost connoisseur of art in his time, made a point of searching them out, and his large and well-organized collection must have been most useful to him.
The drawing collections in the world’s major museums are now protected by a series of conservation measures to safeguard them from the dangers of light, humidity and pollution. Therefore the acquaintance with this chapter in the history of Art is a privilege of only a few scholars, collectors and critics who are permitted to consult the drawing for study purposes.
If drawings have had a history of ups and downs, there was one in which, more than any other art object, they were the major protagonists. When, during the last century the new technique of photography began to be used for the reproduction of art, drawings by the great masters immediately proved themselves to be the best suited for faithful “duplication”, for the making of facsimiles which the new technique permitted.
The Florentine photographers Leopoldo and Romualdo Alinari began reproducing drawings in 1853, the year after they opened their celebrated photographic establishment. They were encouraged in their intuitions by a steady correspondence with distinguished scholars: primarily John Ruskin, the great English art critic, and eminent collectors such as Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort. Over the decades this extraordinary technical and artistic patrimony has grown thanks of the work of other great photographers, its value increasing with the numbers of drawing reproduced, some of them extremely rare. Of a few original drawings which have sadly disappeared, the Alinari plate is the only precious document still remaining. In almost 150 years of activity the most complete and unique in the world.
A century-old tradition and a vast collection of negatives: these were the starting points of the Biblioteca di Disegni, a work fundamental for the study of Italian drawings. To accomplish the project an International Advisory Committee was formed under the direction of Prof. Ulrich Middledorf, the director of the Chicago Art Institute and of the Kunsthistorisches Institut of Florence. The committee was composed of eminent scholars and internationally-known specialists in the field of drawing. Their help was requested for the formulation of the over-all plan and for the selection of the collaborators. The Biblioteca di Disegni is comprised of 28 volumes and an index, and consists of more than 1,200 drawings by the Great Masters.
The drawings have been reproduced in the identical formats of the originals using the 19th century collotype technique, an artisan process still operating in our Print Works, the last in Europe.