Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Finding aid for the Luigi Salerno research papers, 1948-1996
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (255.66 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical / Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Separated Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • Bibliography

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Luigi Salerno research papers
    Date (inclusive): 1948-1996
    Number: 2000.M.26
    Creator/Collector: Salerno, Luigi, 1924-1992
    Physical Description: 26.85 linear feet (61 boxes, 1 flatfile folder)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: 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.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in Italian with some English

    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 urban history.
    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.

    Administrative Information


    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.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Luigi Salerno research papers, 1948-1996, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2000.M.26.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired as partial donation from Pietro Paolo Salerno, son of Luigi Salerno, in 2000.

    Processing History

    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.

    Separated Materials

    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.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da, 1573-1610
    Guercino, 1591-1666
    Rosa, Salvatore, 1615-1673

    Subjects - Topics

    Architecture, Baroque--Italy--Rome
    Architecture--Conservation and restoration
    Art dealers--Correspondence
    Art historians--Correspondence
    Art--Collectors and collecting
    City planning--Italy--Rome
    Landscape painting, Italian
    Painting, Baroque--Italy
    Painting, Italian--Attribution
    Still-life painting, Italian

    Subjects - Places

    Rome (Italy)--Buildings, structures, etc.

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Black-and-white photographs
    Color photographs
    Color transparencies
    Correspondence--20th century
    Photographic prints
    Photomechanical prints


    Mahon, Denis


    Fusconi, Giulia. Luigi Salerno. In Dizionario biografico dei soprintendenti storici dell'arte, 1904-1975. Bologna: Bononia University Press, 2007.