Patrizia Cappellini

Fokum eEvening Lecture Summer Term 2024


Dr Patrizia Cappellini, Firenze, talks about:

The Antique Dealer Elia Volpi in Exchange with Wilhelm von Bode: Photographs, Letters and Export Licenses

Date: 10/06/24, 18:15-19:45 CEST
TU Berlin Zoom-Link:

F.l.t.r.: Elia Volpi, a photograph from the Volpi photo archive with a work sold by the dealer and Wilhelm von Bode in his study in the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum. Photo: Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

++Title, abstract and CV are always written in the respective language of presentation.++

Abstract: Between 1860 and 1873 the Italian government abolished many religious orders, thus acquiring an enormous number of convents, cloisters and churches, whose contents often found their way onto the art market. Moreover, economic troubles led many noble families to sell their estates and properties. That is why in the same period the Italian government fought to stem the flow of treasures overseas by establishing both centralised and local institutions tasked with inspecting works that art dealers wanted to sell abroad.
In the Florence art scene of this period, many art dealers managed to set up relationships with international museums, private galleries, collectors and curators. Elia Volpi, the most important of them after Stefano Bardini, was a pretty good painter and mostly a skilful restorer. In the 1880s, after about eight years as Bardini’s head restorer, Volpi started his own business and in 1904 he purchased the fourteenth-century Palazzo Davanzati, in the centre of Florence, which he reconstructed and turned into a base for his commercial strategies. In 1910 he inaugurated this new private museum with the auction “Collezione Volpi”: Creating the brand of “the ancient Florentine House”, he exported in particular to the USA where it met the taste of many tycoons who furnished their mansions.
In the 1880s Volpi started his business relationship with Wilhelm von Bode, pivotal figure of the Berlin museums and consultant of many German collectors, museums and private patrons. The lecture will present the results of my PHD research. Analysing and combining the main sources, i.e. letters, photographs and export licenses, the aim is to reconstruct the relationships between the antique dealer Volpi and the museum director Bode during this “Golden era” of the Art Market.

Patrizia Cappellini graduated in Art History at the University of Florence. The photo archive of the art dealer Elia Volpi was the topic of her post graduate thesis in 2012 and in 2013 she collaborated with the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz for the realisation of the online exhibition Fotografie di un antiquario. La raccolta di Elia Volpi, In 2015 she benefited from a research fellowship at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz and in 2019 she defended her PhD thesis at the University of Udine, on the business relationships between Elia Volpi and Wilhelm von Bode, with a focus on photography as a tool for the art market. She took part in many conferences organised, among others, by the CAA, the Museo del Novecento in Florence, the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, the University of Bern, the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, the Villa Vigoni, the University of Udine, the University of Zagreb, and the Villa Liebermann-Casa di Goethe. From 2019 to 2020 she collaborated with the Florentine Heritage Protection Office (Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio) for cataloguing the places and the memory of the First World War. Among her recent publications there are: Bardini and Beyond: Wilhelm Bode and the Art Dealers in Florence (2023); Elia Volpi e Wilhelm von Bode. Fotografia e commercio d’arte tra Firenze e Berlino, 1892-1927 (2022); Rodolfo Pallucchini e l’attività espositiva della galleria Antiquaria di Alessandro Morandotti, 1940-1943 (2019); Trading Old Masters in Florence 1890-1914. Heritage protection and the Florentine art trade in Post-Unification Italy (2018); The Art Dealer and the Devil: Remarks on the Relationship of Elia Volpi and Wilhelm von Bode (2017).