Foto Reali Archive (National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections)
The Department of Image Collections at the National Gallery of Art is a study and research center for images of Western art and architecture. In 2004, two visual resources departments, the Slide Collection (founded in 1941) and the Photograph Collection (founded in 1943) were merged to form a single department. Together, the combined collections now comprise almost 10 million photographs, slides, negatives, microform images. The Photograph Collection alone contains more than 9.6 million images, documenting European and American art and architecture. Two archives from the Photograph Collection have been digitized and are now available in Artstor: the Foto Reali Archive and the Clarence Ward Archive.
The Foto Reali firm was active in Florence, Italy between 1910 and 1940. During this time, the Reali brothers surveyed private art collections and dealer inventories throughout Italy, often photographing works in situ. Among the private collections represented in the archive are those assembled by Harold Acton, Vittorio Cini, Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Luigi Grassi, and Eugenio Ventura. Many of these works have since entered major museum collections around the world. Especially noteworthy are the more than 700 paintings, mostly from the Contini–Bonacossi collection, that later found their way into the Samuel H. Kress Collection, which is also being digitized by Artstor. The Foto Reali images provide documentation of Kress paintings prior to later cleaning and restoration efforts. In fact, since many of the works in the archive were photographed before restoration or in their original frames and/or settings, the Foto Reali archive of approximately 4000 large-format glass plate negatives has become a key resource for curators, conservators, and scholars of Italian art. It is also of great interest to historians of the Italian Renaissance and art collecting.
The Foto Reali collection itself is largely unidentified, and is currently being researched at the National Gallery of Art to preserve the valuable provenance information these visual documents contain. David Alan Brown, the National Gallery of Art's Curator of Italian Paintings, notes that “as many of the works are unknown even to specialists, this vast image collection holds out the promise of exciting discoveries.” Through their collaboration, both the National Gallery of Art and Artstor seek to make this important scholarly resource more broadly available for non-commercial, scholarly, and educations purposes, through the use of digital technologies. According to Neal Turtell, Executive Librarian, National Gallery of Art, “The National Gallery of Art is excited to make the unique contents of the Foto Reali Archive more accessible to the academic and museum community. Our collaboration with Artstor is a natural outgrowth of Paul Mellon's commitment to excellence in art historical research.” Selections from the Foto Reali Archive are represented in Artstor with over 3000 images, focusing on Italian painting, sculpture, and drawing.