The photographic bequest
An Online Exhibition by the Photo library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut
The "material turn" that has characterized studies on photography in recent years has promoted a re-consideration of photographs not only as two-dimensional images, but also as three-dimensional objects that exist in a spatial and temporal dimension, in social and cultural contexts. This new approach, conscious of the epistemological value of photographs, finds a fruitful field of application in the photographs in the Gustav Ludwig bequest, left to the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz on the death of the German art historian in 1905. The photographs of the Ludwig bequest are extraordinarily vivid documents of art-historical practices in the early years of the last century. The selection of photographs presented in this online exhibition, of which the mounts, stamps, inventory numbers and handwritten annotations are an integral part, offers us a rare opportunity to gain an insight into the mental and visual 'laboratory' of the art historian and to reconstruct his daily working practices, exceptionally documented by the fortunate conservation of many steps in the intellectual and also manual process. Ludwig, who had attended the "Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie und Reproduktionsverfahren" in Vienna, possessed the necessary familiarity with the techniques of photography, and also an undeniably creative approach in his use of photography for scientific ends. The photographs in the Ludwig bequest seem to capture not just the object, but also the methods and even the results of his studies: not only the images of the works of art on which he was working, but a kind of visual confirmation of his scientific arguments.