Biographical / Historical Note
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Luigi Salerno research papers
Date (inclusive): 1948-1996
Salerno, Luigi, 1924-1992
26.85 linear feet
(61 boxes, 1 flatfile folder)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
The collection is comprised of research notes, an extensive photograph archive and correspondence, which document the career
and scholarly interests of Italian art historian Luigi Salerno. Active in Rome and prominent in the field of baroque studies,
Salerno was a prolific author and an administrator involved with the preservation of artistic patrimony in Rome and Lazio.
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Language: Collection material is in
Italian with some
Biographical / Historical Note
Luigi Salerno was born on 3 September 1924, in Rome, Italy, to Aldo Salerno and Maria Santangelo, who was the sister of the
art historian Antonino Santangelo. He attended the Università di Roma, "La Sapienza," where he graduated in 1946 with a laurea
in Storia dell'arte moderna and a thesis on the Macchiaioli, written under Lionello Venturi.
Salerno's exemplary academic work garnered him a scholarship from the Istituto d'archeologia e storia dell'arte (1946-1949)
and a fellowship to study at the Warburg Institute in London in 1948, where he worked closely with Rudolf Wittkower. His exposure
to the work of Fritz Saxl, Ernst Gombrich, and Wittkower, and to their art historical methodologies, would be fundamental
for the development of his research. While in London, Salerno met Denis Mahon, with whom he would develop a lasting friendship
which resulted in numerous collaborations, including a major work on Guercino (1988). Mahon advised and critiqued early works
authored or edited by Salerno including those on Giovanni Lanfranco and Giulio Mancini, and the two corresponded regularly
throughout Salerno's career. Salerno and Mahon would later be involved together in the rediscovery of two Caravaggio paintings
acquired by American museums in the 1970s: the Detroit Institute of Arts'
Martha and Mary Magdalene and the Cleveland Museum of Art's
The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew. Through Mahon, Salerno was introduced to Benedict Nicolson, the long-time editor of
The Burlington Magazine. This fruitful relationship resulted in a friendship, as well as the appearance of a number of articles written by Salerno
in the Burlington and other English language journals.
As a young man, Salerno lived for a time with Alessandro Marabottini, then assistant to Professor Salmi. The two shared a
flat on the Aventino in Via Sant'Anselmo, until Salerno married Elda Campana in 1953. Elda Campana and Luigi Salerno had two
sons, Pietro Paolo, born in 1955 and Carlo Stefano, born in 1960.
In 1947, Salerno joined the Antichità e belle arti del ministero della pubblica istruzione, and was assigned shortly thereafter
to the Soprintendenza alle gallerie di Roma (1948). His 1958 appointment as director of the Soprintendenza ai monumenti del
Lazio, an administration responsible for the care and preservation of historic monuments throughout Lazio, prompted Mahon
to write: "Congratulations on your enormous new responsibilities - which would terrify me!" Salerno remained at the Soprintendenza
until 1967, during which time he developed research on Rome's urban history. He prepared numerous publications on monuments
and sites in Rome including,
Altari barocchi (1959), the
Palazzo Rondinini (1964),
Piazza di Spagna (1967),
Roma communis patria (1968) and with Luigi Spezzaferro and Manfredo Tafuri,
Via Giulia: una utopia urbanistica del 500 (1973). The vast publication on
Via del Corso (1961), prepared under Carlo Pietrangeli, and to which Salerno made numerous contributions, became a model for studies on
During this period, Salerno continued to be involved with exhibition organizing committees and to publish works on a variety
of topics, such as Giovanni Lanfranco, Caravaggio, the Carraccis and the Mancini manuscripts. His scholarly interest in 17th
century Italian painting would find fulfillment in the immensely popular and successful exhibition
Il Seicento Europeo (1956), whose catalog Salerno wrote in collaboration with Alessandro Marabottini. In 1959, he was on the research committee
of the important exhibition
Il Settecento a Roma and was appointed research professor in art history at the Università di Roma. He firmly established himself as an assiduous
scholar with his publication in three installments of the
Burlington Magazine of the inventory of the collection of Vincenzo Giustiani (1960).
Salerno took on numerous editorial projects as co-director for visual arts for the journal
Palatino, as founding co-editor of the journal
Storia dell'arte, directed by Giulio Carlo Argan, and as a member of the editorial committee of the
Enciclopedia universale dell'arte (1958-1967), also led by Argan. He taught briefly in the United States, accepting a visiting professorship at Pennsylvania
State University during the fall of 1965. This sojourn sparked a friendship between Salerno and Robert and Catherine Enggass,
who translated several of Salerno's works. In 1968-1969, Salerno won a Fulbright scholarship for the academic year which he
spent as an affiliated fellow at the American Academy in Rome.
In addition to his administrative and teaching duties, Salerno pursued research on artists and topics in art history which
he felt remained neglected in Italy, notably the painter Salvator Rosa, the so-called unacademic painters and Italian still
life painting. He also wrote extensively on landscape and vedute. He was largely responsible for bringing Salvator Rosa to
the fore among his contemporaries, preparing two monographs on the painter (1963, 1975). In a review in
The Burlington Magazine, Francis Haskell, who considered Salerno's first monograph "excellent," noted it was the first major work devoted to the artist
in over fifty years. As a result, Salerno's name became inexorably intertwined with that of the artist and he received numerous
expertise requests from individuals who believed themselves to be in possession of a genuine work by Rosa. Salerno's interest
in unacademic painters grew and dissent in art was a theme he would continue to explore throughout his career. He became a
specialist on artists such as Filippo Napoletano, Jacques Callot, Angelo Caroselli, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, Pier Francesco
Mola, Nicolas Poussin, Salvator Rosa and Pietro Testa.
In 1967 Salerno assumed the position of director at the Calcografia nazionale. During his tenure Salerno headed major initiatives
to inventory, photograph and catalog printing plates in the collection. By the late 1960s Salerno was director of the Ufficio
esportazione, also known as the Dogana, an office responsible for monitoring and issuing licenses for the exportation of works
of art. In 1973 he was transferred from his position in Rome to the Soprintendenza dell'Aquila, where he stayed only a few
months. Taking advantage of new legislation which allowed for the early retirement of high-level administrators, Salerno chose
to devote himself more fully to his research interests. This enabled him to publish an essay and catalog entries for the Metropolitan
Museum of Art's exhibition,
The Age of Caravaggio (1985), and a number of important volumes including:
L'opera completa di Salvator Rosa (1975),
Pittori di paesaggio del Seicento a Roma (1977-1980),
La natura morta italiana, 1560-1805 (1984),
I dipinti del Guercino (1988), and his last major work
I pittori di vedute in Italia (1991). After a long convalescence, Salerno died on 22 July 1992.
Open for use by qualified researchers except for one letter in Box 3, folder 17, which contains a student record and is SEALED
per Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) legislation and institutional policy until 2045.
Luigi Salerno research papers, 1948-1996, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2000.M.26.
Acquired as partial donation from Pietro Paolo Salerno, son of Luigi Salerno, in 2000.
Registered by Richard Zwies in 2000. The collection was processed and the finding aid was prepared by Insley Julier under
the supervision of Karen Meyer-Roux from September 2011 to May 2012.
Luigi Salerno filed the photographs in Series IV in envelopes that he labeled, but did not maintain a strict arrangement of
his research papers or house them in folders labeled by him. Due to this fact, titles of files in Series III have been supplied
by the cataloger.
Two publications, an exhibition catalog and several serials were transferred to the library. A note in the provenance field
of the library record identifies their source as the Luigi Salerno Collection.
Scope and Content of Collection
The collection, dated 1948-1996, is comprised of research notes, an extensive fototeca or photograph archive and correspondence,
which document the career and research interests of Italian art historian Luigi Salerno (1924-1992). With particular emphasis
on the Italian baroque, major areas of interest documented in this collection include: Giovanni Lanfranco, Gaspard Dughet,
Salvator Rosa, Guercino, Caravaggio and Italian still life, view and landscape painting, as well as materials related to the
preservation of artistic patrimony in Rome and Lazio. Lanfranco, Rosa, Guercino and Caravaggio constitute major portions of
the research files, while still life, view and landscape painters, particularly minor masters, comprise the bulk of the images
in the fototeca. Together, the correspondence, expert opinions, research files and photograph files, revolve largely around
questions of attribution and connoisseurship.
The types of materials found in the collection include photographs, transparencies, research notes, correspondence, clippings,
offprints, and photocopies. Salerno gathered most of these materials as he conducted research for his numerous publications.
With some exceptions, these materials tend to focus on the geographical area of Rome, Italy and its surrounds. Salerno also
received a large number of letters and photographs from colleagues and collectors, who sought his opinion regarding attribution.
Salerno's research notes demonstrate his methodical work habits, with numerous archival references, object checklists, citations,
biographical information on artists and a vast number of images, often stamped or annotated. These notes and Salerno's immense
fototeca were used when planning exhibitions, drafting catalog entries and authoring articles or monographs. The papers also
contain releases for images, bulletins, galleys, proofs, etchings, postcards, periodicals, receipts, radiographs, sketches,
press releases, inventories, affidavits, business cards, appraisals, loan forms and auction catalogs, as well as a small number
of technical examinations, insurance records, slides, floor plans and one piece of paper money.
The collection is arranged in four series:
Series I. Correspondence, 1948-1996, undated;
Series II. Expert opinions, 1975-1984, undated;
Series III. Research files, 1950-1992, undated;
Series IV. Photographs, undated.
Subjects - Names
Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da, 1573-1610
Rosa, Salvatore, 1615-1673
Subjects - Topics
Architecture--Conservation and restoration
Art--Collectors and collecting
Landscape painting, Italian
Still-life painting, Italian
Subjects - Places
Rome (Italy)--Buildings, structures, etc.
Genres and Forms of Material
Luigi Salerno. In
Dizionario biografico dei soprintendenti storici dell'arte, 1904-1975. Bologna: Bononia University Press, 2007.