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History of the Institute
Karl Eduard Freiherr von Liphart (1808-1891) was the first person to put forward the idea establishing a research institution dedicated to the history of art in Florence, to be modelled on the Archaeological Institute in Rome, to his illustrious circle of scholars, connoisseurs and artists, which included Wilhelm von Bode, Adolph Bayersdorfer, Adolf von Hildebrand and Hans von Marées during the 1870s. They agreed that the Institute should consist of a library, staffed by specialists, and a collection of illustrations, which would ensure that direct contact with the works of art and the archives could be guaranteed. This was, in all likelihood, modelled on Liphart's own house in the Via Romana, the site of the congregations of scholarly art aficionados, who gathered there to study his collections of paintings, books, engravings and antiquities.

In 1878 Carl Ruland, future director of the Grand Ducal Museum in Weimar, took the initiative and composed a memorandum to Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm in which he advocated the foundation of an Institute of Art History in Florence. Although the proposal was met with interest, the project failed due to the refusal of financial aid by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
August Schmarsow (1853-1936), Professor of Art History at the University of Breslau, exerted his influence within the Prussian ministerial administration, lobbying continually for the foundation of the Florentine Institute from 1883 onwards. He inaugurated courses of study in art history in Florence during the winter term of 1888. The first nine students to attend his first lecture were Aby Warburg, Ernst Burmeister, Hermann Ulmann, Max J. Friedländer, Albert Kollmann, Johannes Seger, Max Semrau, August Winkler and Ernst Zimmermann. Supported by his followers, Schmarsow subsequently called the "Institute of Art History" into being. He delivered lectures on Italian sculpture in the Circolo Filologico in the Palazzo Ferroni, and held tutorials on the history of Italian sculpture and the relationship between Masaccio and Masolino in his private apartments. Trips to artistic monuments in the surrounding area completed the programme of events.
(ill. 1)

The art historians' convention in Nuremberg decided to erect a research institute "in Florence, that most noble seat of the study of the history of art". An executive board was formed, which comprised the professors Max Georg Zimmermann, August Schmarsow and Adolph Bayersdorfer and a committee numbering fifteen members.
(ill. 2)

The executive board composed a written plea for the foundation of "an Institute for the history of art", a petition which was signed by numerous prominent art historians both at home and abroad, and was circulated via the "Art Chronicle". The Institute's aims were as follows:

1. the establishment of an extensive academic library and a large collection of comparative studies of appropriate illustrative material which were to be made accessible in suitable rooms of study.

2. the appointment of an "artistic scholar with a broad educational background" as a permanent director, whose duties included the administration of the various collections, support of staff members and advising young scientists and academics.

Considerable donations from Germany and abroad were collected with the aid of the influential Wilhelm von Bode and other individuals. The executive board was expanded to include Wilhelm Bode, Carl Justi, Franz Xaver Kraus and Henry Thode, with August Schmarsow presiding as chairman. The latter put forward art historian Heinrich Brockhaus (1858-1941), member of Leipzig's famous family of publishers, for the post of director. News of the Institute's foundation, and Brockhaus's appointment as its future director, was announced at the International Convention of Art Historians in Budapest.
(ill. 3)
Ill. 1: August Schmarsow (1853-1936)
Ill. 2: Adolph Bayersdorfer (1842-1901) and Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901)
Ill. 3: Heinrich Brockhaus (1858-1941)
On 16th November, the Institute was provisionally opened in the private apartments of Brockhaus in the Viale Principessa Margherita 21 (the present-day Viale Spartaco Lavagnini). Brockhaus simply declared that the largest room in his apartment should be considered "Florence's Institute of Art History". A guest room was later added, providing ancillary space. The Institute received financial support from the German government and from private donors. In the same year, Schmarsow published the Festschrift composed in honour of the Institute's foundation, which included academic contributions on Italian art.

The Institute was founded in an era when art history was in the throes of being established as an academic discipline. At that time, Italian research was the subject's main focus, making the creation of a foreign institute in Florence a logical step. It offered scholars the opportunity to carry out work-related research, a main preoccupation amongst art historians of this founding generation, although the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance were deemed the epochal focus of the age. (ill. 4)


  Ill. 4: The Kunsthistorische Institut in the apartement of Heinrich Brockhaus, 1897
The "Society for the Promotion of the Institute of Art History in Florence" was inaugurated at the International Convention of Art Historians in Amsterdam under the chairmanship of Franz Xaver Kraus. The annual budget amounted to approximately 15,000 marks, a third of which was raised privately, and two thirds publicly. Five years later, the government subsidy increased from 10,000 to 15,000 marks. Business transactions were managed by members of the Society's executive board who resided in Florence. By 1899, the Institute's holdings had grown to include to 1,900 books and 5,000 photographs and other illustrative material. A declaration published in this year stated: "The Institute of Art History in Florence should aim to support the scholarship of all those art researchers and friends of the arts who wish to undertake detailed analyses of the historical development on this ancient Italian soil by placing rooms of study and easily accessible specialist literature and the necessary reference materials at their disposal. [...] This Institute should be headed by an art historian who assumes responsibility for the collections in his role as managing director, supports the endeavours of all users, and, in particular, acts as an experienced counsellor in his dealings with younger colleagues and students, lending them a scholarly ear."

On 1st January, the first "academic meeting" was held at the Institute, marking the start of a tradition of public lectures which continues to this day. The executive board submitted the first report on the Institute's development in June. Brockhaus' principle activities included the establishment and expansion of the various collections, the organisation of academic work at the Institute and the maintenance of public relations with researchers active in Italy at the time. However, his remit also included drawing up inventories and cataloguing new acquisitions, a task in which he was supported by his wife, Else.

The Institute was expanded in 1903, supplemented by the addition of the adjoining apartment (Viale Principessa Margherita 19), which included a work room and four other separate rooms. The Institute appointed a permanent, paid curator, a librarian, and an assistant for the first time. The assistants received a scholarship and began to work for the Institute on a part-time basis, pursuing their own studies on the side. The Institute received prominent visitors in the shape of Crown Prince Wilhelm and Prince Eitel Friedrich, who demonstrated their appreciation of the German research institute abroad.

The first volume of the newly established series entitled "Italienische Forschungen" was printed by publisher Bruno Cassirer in Berlin. This contained four articles on the Italian Renaissance. Later volumes of "Italienische Forschungen" would contain only monographs.

In the spring, the first course of study for senior teachers and headmasters of Prussian secondary schools took place, conceived for those individuals who "have had to lecture on Italy for years without ever becoming acquainted with it." Under the competent leadership of Paul Schubring, they had the opportunity to gain a personal impression of Renaissance art in order to be in a position to "use its artistic content in a profitable manner", e.g. to incorporate it into their teaching of German, history and religion. This scheme was initiated by Friedrich Althoff, head of the Prussian Ministry of Culture. This event also marked the beginning of the regular study courses still organised by the Institute today, which now serve to promote and support young scientists and academics. The first issue of the periodical entitled "Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz" was published. The Institute's fundamental academic activities had fully evolved by this stage, and were largely responsible for its enduring reputation. From 1910 onwards, plans to found the Bibliotheca Hertziana as a Roman Institute of Art History became increasingly concrete. At the same time, Paul Fridolin Kehr, director of the Prussian Historical Institute in Rome, stimulated serious discussion regarding the possible mutual management of their three Institutes (Hertziana, the Prussian Institute in Rome and the Institute of Art History in Florence).

Wilhelm von Bode, president of the Berlin Museums and an extremely influential figure in Berlin at the time, became the Society's new chairman and attempted to protect the Institute from being monopolised. His legacy included the Society's new charter, drawn up in 1913, which clearly defined the Institute's research fields: instead of dedicating itself to medieval and more recent art history, the Institute would from now on primarily direct its attention to researching Central and Upper Italian art. Institute director Brockhaus stepped down after 15 years in the wake of muted criticism of his approach by Aby Warburg and Wilhelm von Bode. He was succeeded by Weimarian museum director Hans Freiherr von der Gabelentz-Linsingen (1872-1946), who eventually prevented Kehrs' ambitious project to consolidate the Institutes with the aid of a manifesto.

The Institute, which suffered the effects of a serious lack of space as a result of the increasing collections of books and photographs, (with a stock of 8,769 books and 26,400 photographs) was relocated to rented rooms on the second floor of the Palazzo Guadagni (Piazza S. Spirito 9). (ill. 5)

  Ill. 5: Palazzo Guadagni, around 1964, photo: Bazzechi

This property also housed the director's official residence. The 22 rooms were ranged around the interior courtyard, forming an L-shape. The ceilings were painted in typical 19th century style, and the windows opened out onto the Piazza Santo Spirito beneath. The Sorelle Bandini (Bandini sisters) opened their pension of the same name on the floor above, whose large loggia permitted wonderful views of the city and which provided accommodation for many generations of visitors to the Institute. (ill. 6)

  Ill. 6: Palazzo Guadagni, loggia, around 1964, photo: Bazzechi

By 1913, the library contained around 12,000 volumes, and the pre-war years were heavily influenced by the reorganisation essential to the stock's systematic classification by subject area, in addition to the creation of the alphanumerical shelf mark system still used today. After 1913/14, academic lectures were augmented by projectors and slide collections. (ill. 7a/b/c/d)

  Ill. 7a: Library study room in the Palazzo Guadagni, with Walter Biehl and Otto Wenzel, taken before the First World War
Institute director von der Gabelentz-Linsingen was called to enlist in 1915. He was substituted by Kurt Zoege von Manteuffel. On the 16th May 1915, the Institute closed "for the duration of the war", which became a period of seven years. German nationals were obliged to leave Italy. The deserted Institute was placed under the protection of Swiss consul Carlo A. Steinhäuslin, while the Society continued with relatively few resignations. The "Mitteilungen" continued to be published in Berlin. On 26.08.1916, the Institute was seized in the wake of Italy's declaration of war on Germany. This was followed by its assignment to Giovanni Poggi, superintendent of the Florentine museums and galleries, and the eventual transfer of the collections of books and photographs to the former main post office, using its offices, or uffizi, as a repository. From 1920, user access to the stocks for academic purposes was extremely limited. (ill. 8)

In 1922, Wilhelm von Bode dedicated himself to negotiating the return of the collections, gaining the trust of the Italian ministries, which actually wished to take control of the Florentine Institute. The issue of the amalgamation of the three Italian Institutes was raised once more. The Italian ministries would no longer accept von Gabelentz as director, as he had fought against Italy in the war. After his resignation in 1922, the Italian authorities backed archaeologist Christian Hülsen for the post. However, Bode deemed the Swiss Heinrich Bodmer (1885-1950) a suitable successor, and, on 10.08.1922, he finally procured a royal decree, securing the collections' return to German safekeeping with Bodmer as the new honorary director.

1923 heralded the Institute's official reopening at its provisional headquarters in the Uffizi buildings.

Inflation caused the Society's assets to become virtually worthless. The long period of closure and the war provoked a decline in membership, with numbers falling from 277 to 113, and it became impossible to count on the previous state subsidies. Bodmer and an assistant inspected the stocks stored in 9 rooms in the Uffizi, establishing whether they were complete. Fortunately, hardly any losses were recorded.
In September 1923, the Institute resumed regular operations with public meetings in which the Italian authorities were a constant presence. The new charter of 1924 made provision for an international executive board for the Society, one of the Italians' top priorities.

This body included non-German members from Stockholm, Naples, Copenhagen, Florence, Winterthur, Madrid, Vienna, Rome and the USA for the first time. Bode succeeded in engaging the support of private patrons for the Society, and procuring financial aid used in the Institute’s redevelopment. Academic meetings, in which scholars from many different nationalities participated, were commenced in the winter of 1926. In 1925, a technical manager was engaged for the library to repair the war-related damages. The photographic library created its first alphabetical and topographical card index.
Ill. 7b: Library in the Palazzo Guadagni, 1964
Ill. 7c: Library in the Palazzo Guadagni, 1964
Ill. 7d: Photographic library in the Palazzo Guadagni before the Second World War
  Ill. 8: The Institute's main study room during its provisional accommodation in the Uffizi, around 1920
1924 witnessed a major photographic exhibition of baroque monuments in Bologna. The photographic library's prominent employees included former scholarship holder Ulrich Middeldorf, who tended to the collection with indefatigable idealism until 1935. In the following years, academics pursued their work at the Institute with the aid of scholarships funded by the German Empire or its individual states, and the number of publications increased as a result. In 1925, the project entitled "A Guide to the Florentine Churches" began, which was designed to serve as both an academically critical reference work and as a guide to the historic monuments themselves. A paper charting the history of the Florentine Institute was composed by Curt H. Weigelt to commemorate Bode's 80th birthday, which was celebrated in the Oberlichtsaal in the uffizi of the former post office.
The Institute's temporary residence in the Uffizi ended in 1927. The Institute returned to its former quarters in the Palazzo Guadagni, which had, in the meantime, been equipped with 28 study carrels in the library and an additional 6 cubicles in the photographic library.
Ill. 9: Aby Warburg (1866-1929)
Aby Warburg's words in this occasion were as follows: "The Institute is not an instrument symbolising possession, but one epitomising musicality. He who trusts himself may play on it, yet, in the ceaseless farewell symphony of life, he must ensure that he bequeaths this instrument to his successor in the best possible condition." (ill. 9) The books were classified according to the new library system from that point onwards. The new rooms included ample space for the collections' predicted growth, which proved sufficient for years to come.

Internal conflicts, predominantly incited by the assistant, Weigelt, prompted society chairman Bode to refuse to renew Bodmer's contract as director, which caused an international sensation. However, Bode's successor, Wilhelm Waetzold (1880-1943), president of the Berlin Museums, restored Bodmer to his post. (ill. 10)

  Ill. 10: Library study room in the Palazzo Guadagni, including space for potential expansion, after 1927
After his retirement in 1932, Bodmer was replaced by the Kiel professor Arthur Haseloff (1872-1955). During this period, the Institute and its employees suffered greatly as a result of the ailing world economy, while salary reductions and financial losses presented considerable problems. Great importance was attached to German art under Haseloff's leadership, and visits to fascist exhibitions in Rome and appraisals of German art on Italian soil became part of the Institute's daily existence in line with the prevailing political bias. Haseloff sympathised with the Florentine branch of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party) and machinated against Moritz Hellweg, Florence's apolitical German consul. Wilhelm Waetzold lost his position as president of the Berlin museums as a result of Hitler's "Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums" ("Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service") and was simultaneously forced to step down from his role as society chairman. He was replaced by Heinrich Zimmermann, director of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, in 1937. Although discussions regarding the amalgamation of the Florentine and Roman Institutes were reopened, these plans faltered once again.

Haseloff returned to his former post after a year-long sabbatical. His successor in Florence was Friedrich Kriegbaum (1901-1943), who had previously worked at the Institute as the holder of a research scholarship donated by the Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft (Emergency Association of German Research). Kriegbaum attempted to preserve the Institute of Art History from its increasing monopolisation by the National Socialist state. However, he was forced to comply with state guidelines, which included placing increased emphasis on research into German art in Italy and on German-Italian relations. Nevertheless, he avoided the disparagement of non-German art and the euphoric pro-Germanic rhetoric emblematic of that era. Attempts were made to maintain a façade of normality. In 1939, the Institute awarded the first set of Bode insignia, designed by Adolf von Hildebrand, to Luigi Vittorio Fossati Bellani for his services to the photographic library. The first subject catalogue was created under the aegis of assistant Werner Haftmann, and was used to index periodical essays. Robert Oertel established a section for 19th century Italian painting in the photographic library.

Pressure placed on the Institution by the NSDAP's overseas organisation gradually increased; directors, employees and scholarship holders were no longer able to avoid becoming party members.

In 1936, a political consolidation of constitutional powers was instigated by the Berlin-based society in order to preserve the Institute of Art History in Florence. By now, the upper echelons of the Society were peopled almost exclusively by prominent political personalities from the capital of the Third Reich, resulting in the NSDAP's subsequent influence and control. The former committee members were pushed aside and forced to form a new advisory body. The Institute director was subsequently appointed by the executive board, not by the committee, with immediate effect. However, these changes, like other internal matters, were no longer made public. In 1938, all "non-Aryan individuals" were banned. The Society ceased to publish its annual reports after 1940. The number of members dropped to 108.

On 9th May 1938, Kriegbaum and his employees gave Mussolini, Hitler, Ribbentrop, Göbbels, Frank, Himmler and Hess a guided tour of the collections in the Palazzo Pitti, subsequently leading them through the Vasari corridor to the Uffizi gallery via the Ponte Vecchio. The Institute marked the occasion with the release of an official photo album. Hitler's visit was followed by a wave of arrests, to which Hans Purrmann, director of the Villa Romana, fell victim, among others. Many Jewish intellectuals, who had been living in Italy undisturbed up to this point, now attempted to emigrate. Living and working conditions deteriorated dramatically after the fall of Mussolini. Arrests, attacks and persecution were the order of the day. Florence was placed under military control. Kriegbaum ensured that many artworks, including Michelangelo's sculptures in the Medici chapel, were protected against air raids. Florence was bombed by British forces for the first time on 25.09.1943; a raid in which Friedrich Kriegbaum, who was paying a visit to the prominent sculpture scholar, Leo Planiscig, in the Via Massaccio, tragically lost his life. He was posthumously appointed an honorary citizen of Florence.

Kriegbaum was succeeded by Ludwig Heinrich Heydenreich (1903-1978). Employees began the task of packing up the books and photographs, although it remained unclear whether these should be transported to Germany or whether they could be preserved in Italy and placed in the custody of the Sopraintendenza. However, the Society's executive board in Berlin insisted on the collections' evacuation to Germany. On 27th January 1944, the Institute headquarters in the Palazzo Guadagni, which had continued to receive a steady stream of visitors, was finally closed. On 20th February 1944, the collections were transported to Germany in 700 crates via a chartered train, and stored 180 metres underground in the Kochendorf salt mines near Heilbronn. Heydenreich became a voluntary member of the deutscher militärischer Kunstschutz (German Military Art Protection Front) and retained control over the Institute's affairs. He collaborated with the Italian authorities responsible for the preservation of ancient monuments and historic buildings to develop strategies to protect Italy's rich artistic heritage. One of his chief fields of activity was his endeavours to mark historic buildings in Florence, Siena and Pisa with warning signs intended to obstruct and prevent military use or occupancy. Photographic and written archives were established to document works of art destroyed in the war. In addition to these essential preservation measures, members of the Art Protection Front also supported the art robberies perpetrated by the National Socialist leadership, either knowingly or out of necessity, participating in a systematic campaign of art-related robberies. However, Heydenreich appeared to belong amongst those individuals who attempted to thwart these actions, when, for example, Bernard Berenson's collection in the Villa I Tatti was looted on the orders of Göring. The German troops were forced to withdraw from Florence in 1944, retaliating by mining the bridges over the river Arno. Other important palaces and towers in the ancient part of the city were also destroyed. Sensing that these events were in the offing, Heydenreich had taken the precaution of documenting everything photographically in advance. These would be the last available photographs documenting Florence prior to its destruction.

The Florentine Institute's collections were transferred to the Central Collecting Point in Offenbach in 1945. Senator Benedetto Croce made a public appeal to the Italian government to reinstate the German Historical Institute, the Bibliotheca Hertziana and the German Archaeological Institute. The Allies were prepared to comply with this request. The foundation of a trusteeship entitled "Unione Internazionale degli Istituti di Archeologia, Storia e di Storia dell'arte di Roma" succeeded in repatriating the Institute in Italy, avoiding contentious legal questions in the process. The Palazzo Guadagni collections were made accessible to the public once again from 14th August 1947 onwards under the influence of librarian Enrico Jahier, who was, at this time, the Institute's provisional director. They became known as the "Biblioteca Internazionale d'Arte" in a move which was financed by UNESCO resources. The unions’ aim was the Institute's ultimate repatriation within the Italian state and the appointment of an international executive body. However, these plans came to nothing. In 1948, Bernard Berenson declared himself in favour of the Institute's repatriation to Germany.

Concrete plans to renew German involvement in the Institute of Art History in Florence were formed from 1950 onwards. In 1951, the Society reconstituted itself, moving its headquarters to Munich. Ludwig Heydenreich, who now held the post of director of the Central Institute of Art History in Munich, became the society chairman. The Institute was subsequently returned to German hands, a development in which Benedetto Croce played a crucial role as mediator. On 27th February 1953, Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Prime Minister Alcide De Gaspari arrived at an agreement which resulted in the Institute being officially re-opened in Italy under German management. The Federal Government pledged to maintain the Florentine Institute. It was decided that financial grants would be provided by the Ministry of the Interior, and later by the Ministry of Science and Research.

The Institute was returned to the control of the Society's executive board on 30.04.1953. The Institute’s financial situation initially caused the Society considerable problems, yet membership fees increased over the following years and the Society was once again in a position to raise 12% of the total budget. Interim director Jahier was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit for his services in the field of periodicals and new publications. The Institute was formally re-opened in 1953 with a celebratory event dedicated to Friedrich Kriegbaum, with Ulrich Middeldorf (1901-1983), who had emigrated to Chicago in 1935, as the Institute's new director. (ill. 11)
The Institute rapidly advanced to become a meeting point for a multinational group of scholars thanks to Middeldorf's international contacts, with the director also encouraging inter-institutional exchange. Middeldorf's employees included two assistants, a librarian, a photographic librarian, several graduate assistants, a secretary, an Institute attendant
Ill. 11: Ulrich Middeldorf (1901-1983), 1964
and of course the scholarship holders themselves, who always devoted a proportion of their time to Institute activities. Middeldorf's principle tasks included arranging the resumption of regular courses of study and expanding library stocks. He succeeded in acquiring significant collections, including the contents of the private libraries of Castellucci, the Florentine architect who designed and constructed the city's cathedral, and of the architect Cappugi. Middeldorf endeavoured to involve high numbers of Florentine academics in his lecture programme, re-establishing the Institute as a research institution which enjoyed international renown. His own research fields comprised Italian Renaissance sculpture, drawings and the "minor arts".

In 1961, renewed space shortages prompted the purchase of the Palazzo Capponi-Incontri in the Via Giuseppe Giusti 44 from the family of Marquis Attilo Incontri by the Fritz Thyssen foundation, which was subsequently donated to the Society of Friends as the Institute’s future headquarters. (ill.12a/b)

  Ill. 12a: Palazzo Capponi-Incontri, 1964
  Ill. 12b:  Library study room in the Palazzo Capponi-Incontri, 1964
Three years later, the Institute moved out of the Palazzo Guadagni and was transferred to the Palazzo, now restored and equipped for future occupation by funds donated by the Thyssen Foundation and by the Ministry of the Interior. The building had been owned by historian, statesman and philanthropist Gino Capponi, who had lived in the Palazzo Capponi in the street of the same name. The Institute's new location in Florence's former artistic quarter, (near properties owned by del Sarto, Sangallo, Pontormo, Zuccari, Cellini, and Giambologna), near the university and the former Accademia del Disegno was considered particularly appropriate. The Institute was opened to visitors on 10.02.1964, the formal ceremony following on 16 May of that year in the Sala dei Duecento in the Palazzo Vecchio.The Institute also increased its involvement in exhibitions, participating in the one dedicated to the works of Adolf von Hildebrand.
The fellowship sponsored by the Samuel H. Kress foundation was created in the following year, and, a year later, the first Kress scholarship holder was sent to the Institute of Art History in Florence. In the same year, work began on the Corpus of Florentine Painting. In 1964, the annual number of visitors was approximately 5,600. On 4th November 1966, Florence was afflicted by the worst flooding in its entire history, a catastrophe which also directly affected the Institute. (ill. 13)

Middeldorf was succeeded by Herbert Keutner (1916-2003), professor at the Technical University in Aachen. In 1970, the Society's general meeting decided in favour of the Institute's nationalisation. It was subsequently transformed into a "dependent Federal Institute" which fell within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Science and Education.
Ill. 13: Flooding in the Palazzo Capponi-Incontri, on 4th November 1966
The Society concluded a sui generis contract with the Federal Republic, which effectively separated the Institute's previous stock from its new acquisitions. After this, the former sponsoring association operated exclusively as a Society of Friends, and was renamed the "Society for the Promotion of the Institute of Art History in Florence". However, it remained the owner of the Institute building, the previous collections and all ancillary items. It also remained on the board of trustees, maintaining its involvement in the Institute's activities in an advisory capacity. The Ministry dispatched a management expert to take over the administration of the Institute. An archive of 20th century Italian art was created in tandem with the acquisition of literature on 19th and 20th century Italian art, a project sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Visitors to the Institute swelled to almost 18,000 annually from 1970 onwards, which stretched its capacity to the very limit. In 1972, treasurer Alexander Kreuter's mediation skills were put to effective use, resulting in the purchase of the Casa Rosselli (Via G.Giusti 38-40), abutting the Palazzo Capponi-Incontri by the Volkswagen Foundation, in addition to the building's donation to the Society of Friends as an addition to the Institute. (ill. 14)
  Ill. 14: Casa Rosselli, from the garden, 1972
Work on the ambitious research project entitled "The Churches of Siena" began in 1974. In 1980, the Institute participated in the exhibition entitled "Arnold Böcklin in Fiesole".

The Institute was transferred to the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Research and Technology under the new director Gerhard Ewald (1927–1997), former paintings' curator of the National Gallery in Stuttgart. The publication of documentation charting the construction of Florence's cathedral and the research project on artist self-portraits in the Uffizi took place during his curator ship. The Institute marked its involvement in the major Donatello exhibition in 1986 with conventions and publications.

The Institute remained closed between 1981 and summer 1982 due to extensive renovation works on the Casa Rosselli and the Palazzo Capponi-Incontri. The entrance lobby was completely redesigned, a new periodicals reading room was created and the lecture theatre was moved to the Casa Rosselli. The expanded Institute was inaugurated in 1982. 1987 witnessed a further Institute-related expansion - to the opposite side of the street. Detlef Heikamp, Max Seidel, Herbert Beck, Ralph P. Odendall and Mario Piccinini encouraged the puchase of the Casa del Sarto-Zuccari, former residence of Florentine painter Andrea del Sarto and, later, of Federico Zuccari, who decorated it with elaborate frescos, which was financed by the Deutsche Bank AG. (ill. 15)

In 1988, the Casa Zuccari was donated to the Society by the Deutsche Bank AG, whose honorary chairman, Hermann J. Abs, had played a crucial mediating role in its acquisition.

Ewald was succeeded by the Swiss Max Seidel (1940), professor at the University of Heidelberg, whose significant research included the major project entitled "The Churches of Siena". He instigated the further expansion of the Institute's capacities and organised regular academic conferences. In 1994, the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome, the Central Institute of Art History in Florence and the Institute of Art History in Florence decided to establish a collective IT-supported literature indexing network. This included the creation of a mutual network and an electronic database. The Institute commissioned Mortimer Graf Maltzan to draw up plans for the restoration of the Casa Zuccari, which were executed between 1996 and 2004 with the support of Italian sponsors. (ill. 16/17)
Ill. 15: Casa Zuccari, 1988
  Ill. 16: Casa Zuccari, fresco on the ground floor of Federico Zuccari (1577), 1988
  Ill. 17: Casa Zuccari, fresco on the ground floor of Federico Zuccari (1577), 1988
In 1997, a series of conventions was organised as part of the Institute of Art History's centenary celebrations, and a book on the Institute's history, by Hans W. Hubert, was published. One of Max Seidel's most significant legacies was the interconnection of the Institute's research activities with those of other cultural institutions in Tuscany (Siena, Pisa and Lucca in particular).

The Max Planck Society (MPG) undertook the sponsorship for the Institute in 2002 as a direct result of his endeavours, heralding a new organisational era. Seidel was appointed an honorary citizen of Florence in 2005, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Florence in 2006.

In 2000, the Federal Ministry of Research and Education submitted a proposal to the president of the Max Planck Society, which advocated the transfer of the Institute of Art History in Florence to the Max Planck Society. Both the board of trustees and the Society of Friends were expressly in favour of this option. The Institute of Art History was assigned to the humanities and social science section of the Max Planck Society. The Institute was formally transferred to the Max Planck Society during a ceremony on 03.06.2002 in the Aula Magna in the University of Florence.

since 2003
Directors of the Institute are Gerhard Wolf (1952), professor at the University of Trier, who took over from Seidel in 2003 and Alessandro Nova (1954), Managing Director „Zentrum zur Erforschung der Frühen Neuzeit“ (Renaissance Institute), Frankfurt/M., who joined the Institute in 2006.

Thanks to its projects, its dedicated support of upcoming generations and its dense network of international contacts, the Institute of Art History in Florence remains one of the most important research institutes for the history of art in the world.

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Hans W. Hubert: Das Kunsthistorische Institut in Florenz. Von der Gründung bis zum hundertjährigen Jubiläum (1897-1997), Florenz 1997.
Das Kunsthistorische Institut in Florenz 1888, 1897, 1925. Wilhelm von Bode zum achtzigsten Geburtstage am 10. Dezember 1925 dargebracht vom Kunsthistorischen Institut in Florenz in Dankbarkeit und Verehrung.
Daniel Schöningh: Der erste kunsthistorische Ferienkurs in Italien für Lehrer höherer Unterrichtsanstalten. Posen 1909. Über die Gründung eines Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz. Denkschrift des Vorstandes, 1899

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