Currently sixty images by Stefano Lecchi of Rome are held in public or private institutions. While eleven of them are views of the city, the remaining forty-nine relate to the defense of the Roman Republic.
The number of subjects taken, however, does not coincide with the number of existing salted papers since, precisely because of the type of method adopted by the photographer from a single negative, he could make several copies.
Besides the prints in the Biblioteca di Storia moderna e contemporanea and the Getty Research Institute, additional photographs are found in the Civica Raccolta A. Bertarelli (Milan) and at the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles).
In addition, a hardly quantifiable number of Lecchi's images belong to public institutions and private collectors.
In 2011 a photographic campaign retraced Lecchi's footsteps, reconstructing, as far as possible, the conditions under which he had operated in 1849. The photographic campaign was carried out by Marcello Benassai, Andrea Sabbadini and Lorenzo Scaramella.
The two-year period 1997-1998 can certainly be considered an extremely important moment in the in-depth study of Lecchi's photographic oeuvre, indeed a true rediscovery of it that fits right in as an important event in the history of photography.
As Marina Miraglia pointed out, until 1997 in fact only a few originals were known of Lecchi's photographs relating to the 1849 defense of Rome, five of which belonged to the Siegert Collection (Miraglia 2001) now in the Münchener Stadtmuseum and the Neue Pinakothek in Munich.
A sixth, depicting the Vascello, was part of the Becchetti Collection in Rome. Also belonging to the same collection are two watercolored originals representing the Leonine walls, which turn out to be glued together to form a panorama and which I was able to study thanks to the courtesy of the owner.
Otherwise, knowledge of the reportage was based on photographic reproductions such as those preserved at the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento in Rome.
Therefore, it is easy to understand the emotion felt by Marina Miraglia when in 1997 she found at the Biblioteca di storia moderna e contemporanea in Rome, forty-one original salted papers of Stefano Lecchi; the crowning achievement of a long research activity. This discovery not only expanded the number of known originals but enriched it with another twenty-one hitherto unknown subjects. Of the forty-one photographs in the Biblioteca di storia moderna e contemporanea, thirty-nine relate to places, buildings or monuments with signs of battles; the two relating to the Casale Cenci and the Casino di Raffaello in Villa Borghese, on the other hand, have the type of views.
But Lecchi's posthumous fortunes as a reporter and vedutista did not end with this very important discovery.
In 1998 Silvia Paoli found at the Civica Raccolta delle Stampe Achille Bertarelli in Milan twenty salted papers by the photographer. Eight of them represent views of Rome, the other twelve, pasted on cardboards, are related to the events of the Janiculum. One of them, representing the Casino del Vascello, is not present in the series owned by the Biblioteca (Paoli 2001).
These twelve photographs have special historical significance as they belonged to Agostino Bertani. And it was in the home of this distinguished physician and fervent patriot that Jessie White Mario saw them. It was she herself, as executor of her friend's will, who later gave them up, to the Bertarelli.
The Getty Research Institute holds an album that contains forty-one salted papers by Lecchi. It comes from the collection of the Englishman Edward Cheney, who came into its possession in September 1849, while he was living in the palazzo of his friend Michelangelo Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta. One of the photos related to Pompeii, the others to Rome. Seven of the latter are not present in any of the other collections mentioned above. Four represent views, the other three definitely belong to war reportage.
The Getty Museum also holds two photographs by Lecchi, one of the Trevi Fountain, dated 1851, while the other, depicting a view of Villa Borghese, can be dated to 1849 as evidenced by the presence in it of a character also present in similar photographs in the Biblioteca di storia moderna e contemporanea and the Cheney album.
In the Alinari collection there is a photograph relating to the Janiculum Hill sites. In addition, a view of the cloister of San Giovanni in Laterano from the de Berry collection was auctioned in 2007.
Two photographs by Lecchi were also discovered in the Musée de Plans Reliefs in Paris.
Other original prints by Lecchi belong to various public and private collections.
To date, therefore, there are sixty known photographs by Lecchi relating to Rome in 1849, fourteen of which are views, while the rest are related to the defense of the Roman Republic.
From the testimony of another Lecchi collector, Ruggero Pini, we have news that in 1995, forty calotype prints attributed to Lecchi, depicting Rome, other Italian cities, and Marseilles, were offered at auction (Paoli, 2001).
(Maria Pia Critelli)
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