Some photograph databases

16/8/10 – Internet websites – Our links pages, one devoted to museum websites, the other to art history sites, are among the most thorough listings currently provided on the net. The web is so rich however that recent introductions are not yet included and other, older ones, still need to be added.
This news item lists links for databases which have been around for some time and which are especially useful due to the extensive number of photographs they offer.

The first, and no doubt the most important, is the one at the Fondation Zeri which has digitized the art historian’s documents. Most of the photographs here are in black and white since Federico Zeri considered them to be more accurate in reproducing the original. When they were first posted in 2008, 90.000 negatives of the 290.000 in its holdings were included.
The photographs fall into two categories : one corresponds to the photographed work (for example The Resurrection of Christ by Gian Battista Piazzetta), the other to the photograph as an art work itself and classified under the author’s name (same example, The Resurrection of Christ by Piazzetta but referring back to the photograph entry, in this case by “A. Villani e figli”). This allows for two types of research : either the works represented (by author, title, technique, date or location), or the photographs. The importance of being able to research the photograph does not seem very relevant. We would thus advise using the first method which provides the works for the artist in question as well as those attributed to him at some point in art history. The names of those responsible for the different attributions (when known) are also given as are any inscriptions appearing on the photographs. Research results are provided in list form or as a page grouping the photographs, with detailed entries popping up once the user clicks on a work.

Although it does not have its own Internet website, the Musee Ingres has posted an important part of its collections online. For the moment, browsers will find mostly old paintings, those by Ingres and Armand Cambon as well as Bourdelle’s sculptures and drawings. These digitized photographs can be found in the Joconde database where there are also over 3,700 drawings by Ingres belonging to the collections, that is a large part of the holdings, paintings by Hippolyte Flandrin, Henri Lehmann…Some works still need to be digitized, among them those by Romain Cazes.

The Joconde database therefore adds museum collections regularly. We would like to point out notably [1] :

- Bordeaux, Musee des Beaux-Arts : almost four thousand works from the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux carry an entry, 2500 of these also are illustrated.
- Pau, Musee des Beaux-Arts : one thousand entries, many of them illustrated.
- Bourg-en-Bresse, Musee de Brou : a little over one thousand entries, about half of these offer accompanying photographs.
- Nantes, Musee des Beaux-Arts : over 5,000 entries, barely one-fifth are illustrated which nevertheless represents almost 1.000 photographs.
- Dijon, Musee des Beaux-Arts : about 2.200 entries, some illustrations.
- Macon, Musee des Ursulines : 3.400 entries with most of them illustrated.
- Dole, Musee des Beaux-Arts : 770 entries, almost all illustrated.
- Strasbourg, Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame : over 450 illustrated works.
- Nancy, Musee des Beaux-Arts : for the moment, some museums have only posted part of their collection, focusing on certain sections ; the one in Nancy offers almost 1.500 engravings (all illustrated) from the collection of an “anonymous” donor which it received a few years ago.
- Senlis, Musees d’Art et d’Archeologie : around 2.500 illustrated entries, however much of it concerns archeology.
- Lille, Musee des Beaux-Arts : almost 2.000 entries, many are illustrated (the museum can also be found on the Musenor database).
- Saint-Omer, Musee de l’Hotel Sandelin : almost 750 illustrated entries.
- Evreux, Musee d’Evreux – Ancien Eveche : almost 750 illustrated entries.
- Dieppe, Chateau-Musee : 1.400 entries, many of them illustrated.
- Eu, Musee Louis-Philippe : almost 700 illustrated works.
- Le Havre, Musee Andree-Malraux : many of the 500 entries have a photograph.
- Rouen, Musee des Beaux-Arts : almost 3.000 works posted, many of them are illustrated.
- Rennes, Musee des Beaux-Arts : almost 5.000 entries but only about 10% are illustrated which is still 500 photographs.

Some establishments, such as the Musee Crozatier at Puy-en-Velay, the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Troyes and the one also in Angers, have their collections posted on Palissy but with very few illustrations, making them of limited interest. Others, such as the Musee des Augustins in Toulouse, are also posted there and are well illustrated but have their own database on their website or, as in the case of the Musee du Petit Palais in Avignon, some can be found on the RMN photograph database.

We would like to conclude our article with databases for some museums which we had not yet included in our links page [2] :

- Tokyo, Museum of Western Art : the database seems rather complete and extensive searches can be made, by technique, thus enabling browsers to see all of the paintings held there.
- London, British Museum : the database includes, at the time we write, 1.888.532 works, of which 541.013 are illustrated ; the works falling within The Art Tribune’s chronological field for this museum are essentially drawings and engravings.
- Los Angeles, Norton Simon Museum : the database seems quite rich.
- Madrid, Museo del Prado : we had not yet included the very complete database for this museum on our links page ; we can now consider this done.
- Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza : this museum’s database is a veritable online catalogue, with each work accompanied by an entry, each artist a biography, and the texts available in both Spanish and English.

Didier Rykner, lundi 16 août 2010


[1] This is a non-exhaustive list and concerns only those museums related to subjects treated in The Art Tribune.

[2] We remind our readers that our museum links page refers them to the home page of the respective website ; on the art history links page, we provide direct links to museum databases worth consulting.

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