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:
Ill. 3: Heinrich Brockhaus (1858-1941)
Ill. 3: Heinrich Brockhaus (1858-1941)
- the establishment of an extensive academic library and illustrative material appropriate for comparative studies which were to be made accessible in suitable rooms of study.
- 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)