Partizione Antica

Looking for a XIXth century art historian



The "Partizione Antica" of the Supino Art Photo Archival fund—belonging to the Biblioteca delle Arti dell'Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna—is a special subfund that has always been valorized for its stunning photograph images and their documental importance for history of art.

It has been catalogued in the '90s from the Archivio Storico of the University of Bologna, and their data are available in the online public access library catalogue, and, more recently, from the Federico Zeri Foundation catalogue in the specific scheda F (for photographs) and scheda OA (for works of art) Italian Ministry ICCD rules.

Most of the photographs are handwritten annotated.


But, who is their original collector?

Despite the Partizione Antica has received a lot of attentions and has been studied, catalogued and digitized, the identity of its creator remains unknown.

Here is a summary of the few known information:

  • Timespan activity: XIXth century
  • Interested in: Ancient Art
  • Languages: native English, proficient in French, Italian and German

Uncovering tracks and connections from available metadata and unstructured data could help in orienting further exploration about the creator of the Partizione Antica's identity.


Preliminary data and facts

The research started from a data extraction of the Supino Partizione Antica fund records provided from the Federico Zeri Foundation catalogue.

Data counts on either well structured metadata using controlled vocabularies, as well as unstructured free-text fields.


Depicted works of art

Transcribed annotations



Data have then been enhanced with more information coming from Wikidata sparql queries or geolocation information.
All the process is illustrated in the Jupyter notebook.
The original data have been used for illustrative and didactical purposes only: all the credits and reuse authorizations must be asked to Federico Zeri Foundation.

Some images

  • All
  • Declared visited places
  • Visited places other annotations
  • Latest and untrascribed annotations

Research questions

The investigation tries to answer some question to better identify the mysterious collector:

What are the main art interests of the collector?

What are the most represented work of art types in the fund?
Where these works of art are located?


Who produced and provided the photographs?

Who are the most used photographers?
Where have the anonymous photos been shot?

What about handwritten annotations?

How many photos have been annotated?
Does the annotation distribution vary according to depicted work of art century?

Can further personal details be detected?

Where and when the collector state her/his presence?

Data visualization


Depicted works of art




Unstructured annotations


Derived information from annotations

So, who am I?


According to the Zeri metadata, the most present work of art type in the picture I collected is sculpture (62%), followed by architecture (26%).

I am really keen on funerary monuments.

The works of art are mainly located in Italy (62%), Greece (12%) and mediterranean area, with an atypical little indian nucleus of 18 photographs.

Most of photographs are from unidentified photograpers (49%).

The rest comes from well known photographer's ateliers specialized in history of art such as Alinari (20%), Moscioni, Brogi, Sommer (5% each), Laurent, Incorpora, Giraudon, etc.

For about 100/112 photographers, I have less than 20 photos each.

The anonymous photographs I collected have been taken, as the whole collection, in Italy, Greece and Mediterranean area.

More than half of the photos (55%), reports my handwritten annotations on the back side.

I have annotated more than usual photos depicting IV and V century BC works of art.

In 5 of my annotations, I reported my travels in the Mediterranean area: I was in Corneto (1861), Athens (1865), Chiusi (1866), Olympia (1887 and 1893), Palermo (1892) and Corfu (1894).

Future investigations

Looking for a second half XIXth century art historian, keen on sculpture and funerary monuments, collector of medals and secondary photographers' photographs, traveling in defined dates in Center and Southern Italy and Greece.


1894 - Corfu
1893 - Olympia
1892 - Palermo
1887 - Olympia
1866 - Chieti
1865 - Atene
1861 - Corneto

Works of art

  • Funerary monuments
  • Indian nucleus


  • Anonymous photographs
  • Medals
  • Minor photographers