The Contini-Volterra Photographic Archive was created by Florentine art connoisseur Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi to supplement his own knowledge and understanding of art in support of his growing collection of paintings. After Continiís death in 1955, the collection was acquired by Florentine antiquarian Gualtiero Volterra, who continued to add photographs to the collection. Vanderbilt University purchased the collection from the Volterra estate in 1969 to support its growing Art History program. It has been used for scholarly research by graduate students, faculty, and visiting scholars. The collection was transferred to Special Collections in 2002 for preservation and broader public access.
The combined research collection contains over 50,000 photographs of art objects created in Europe during the 13th through 20th centuries. The collection is especially strong in Italian art of the 13th through 18th centuries, offering breadth and depth coverage of each major Italian region and featuring both major (Botticelli, Tintoretto) as well as lesser known (Turino Vanni di Rigoli, Deodato Orlandi) artists of the period.
This distinctive visual resource provides important support materials for scholars and advanced students who undertake art history research.
About the Database
We are grateful to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for its generous support of this project. Kress Foundation funding paid for preservation of the collection and for art history assistants to research objects depicted in the photographs.
Over half of the collection has been digitized, described, and incorporated into the database. Researchers may search by keyword or use established subject headings and author names to explore the images. Results pages display a thumbnail and short title, while individual record pages feature expanded descriptions, full subject headings, links to enlarged images, and other information.