Between Art and Art History
An online exhibition by the Photo Library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz
Johann Anton Ramboux (1790-1866) permanently influenced art-historical research with his pioneering copies of Early Italian paintings and frescoes. Generations of art historians and artists relied on Ramboux's Kopienmuseum, the foundations of which he had laid during his journeys in Italy between 1816 and 1843. His drawings, traces, lithographs and watercolours of mainly late medieval works of art are often the only pictorial sources from this period, before copying on site was facilitated by the development of photography. In his own time Ramboux's plates were especially prized for their "fidelity" to their original by such art historians as Karl Friedrich von Rumohr, Franz Kugler or Johann David Passavant. Ramboux's works are now divided between many museums and in the form of photographic reproductions are also found in large numbers in photographic archives. In the Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz these reproductions are filed together with historic and modern photographs of the painting or fresco in question, in order to permit their study over a longer time frame (covering different periods and media). Photographs of Ramboux's watercolours, drawings and lithographs of Giotto's frescoes in Assisi are thus to be found not in the Photothek's section "German Painting, 19th century", but under the artist Giotto in the section "Gothic Painting".
The Online-Exhibition on Ramboux was prompted by the exhibition Ramboux – Italien so nah held in the Clemens-Sels-Museum at Neuss am Rhein in 2016 and is being held in cooperation with the Library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Wolfgang Loseries and the Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf. The latter institution, thanks to its "digital loans" of Ramboux's watercolours, has extraordinarily enriched the Online-Exhibition, which is concentrated instead on lithographs and photographs from the holdings of the Photothek, Library, and private collection.