Julia Bärnighausen, M.A.
Julia Bärnighausen
Academic collaborator BMBF project 'Foto-Objekte'
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The Galleria Sangiorgi in Rome: A Case Study on Photographic Practices in 19th and early 20th Century Art-Dealing

Julia Bärnighausen

The dissertation project explores a series of photographs attributed to the Galleria Sangiorgi in Rome and recently rediscovered in the decorative arts section of the photo library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence – Max-Planck-Institute. On account of their strikingly complex materiality and their revealing visual qualities, they open up a trans-temporal network of different actors, including the photographs themselves as historically shaped and mobile "photo-objects". The Galleria Sangiorgi was founded by the Italian entrepreneur Giuseppe Sangiorgi (1850–1928) at the Palazzo Borghese in Rome in 1892. It soon became one of the world's largest and most successful art-dealing and auction houses. Like many of his contemporaries, Sangiorgi kept a workshop where the antiquities from his collection were reproduced for sale. The photographs, which  were used as reference copies, communication devices and samples, circulated amongst collectors, art-dealers, artists and photographers inside and outside the gallery and between its representations in New York, Paris and London. Approaching the closure of the gallery in 1970, they  were spread across different archives. A large holding of both photographs and drawings deriving from Sangiorgi has been preserved at the photo library of the Fondazione Zeri in Bologna. The Florentine photo-archive constitutes yet another (epistemic) layer in the sedimentation of these documents, which took on a whole new set of meanings within the context of an art-historical image collection. The thesis attempts to reconstruct the history of the Sangiorgi family and their gallery as well as examine practices of art-dealing around 1900. Above all, this case study aims to uncover the epistemological potential that lies within photographs if they are not only considered as images but also as material and "three-dimensional" objects with their own biographies.

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