The hand-written inscription on the verso (sometimes visible on the recto) of all the photographs from the Biblioteca di Storia moderna e contemporanea reads “Calandrelli.” In addition, the entrance number and the stamp of the Biblioteca Vittorio Emanuele II, its previous owner, also appear. They were in fact part of the collection of Alessandro Calandrelli, who, formerly a deputy to the Roman Constituent Assembly, had been a colonel in the army of the Roman Republic and triumvir, together with Livio Mariani and Aurelio Saliceti, after the resignation of Mazzini, Saffi and Armellini.
The collection consists of 41 salted papers. Lecchi's images, mostly signed and dated as if they were paintings, constitute a unique corpus not only because of the technique used, the type and format of the paper adopted (from the Canson company), but also and especially because most of them fix places or buildings related to the defense of the Republic. Two of them, were made in the early months of 1849 and depict buildings, the Casino Cenci and the Casino di Raffaello both located in the Villa Borghese, which will be destroyed for defensive purposes. The remaining 39 prints were taken in the aftermath of the defeat of the Roman Republic, to document the “new ruins” of Rome caused by the military conflict.
Most of the photographs revealed, before restoration, obvious traces of glue at the corners, on the verso. This allows one to speculate that they were glued on a support, were they panels, like those of Bertani, or, much more plausibly, on albums. The fact that in 1911, at the Mostra del Risorgimento, they were displayed on a lectern makes this hypothesis even more plausible.
The photographs present a different coloring from that which characterized them initially. The weakening of tone and the tendency toward red are an unmistakable sign of the time that has passed.
Many of these salt paper prints were known only through few original copies belonging to private collectors, photo-reproductions from the early 20th century, and in some lithographic versions. They were discovered in 1997 by Marina Miraglia in the Biblioteca di storia moderna e contemporanea in Rome.
(Maria Pia Critelli)