Art historian and collector, established "Cicognara" art bibliography. Cicognara was educated in Modena at the Collegio dei Nobili. As a young man he knew the sculptor Antonio Canova. In 1788 he moved to Rome where he was admitted to the Società dell'Arcadia. There he studied art with Domenico Corvi (1721-1803) and the German painter Jacob Philipp Hackert (1737-1807). In addition, he gained an enthusiasm for classical ruins and contemporary art theory. A member of the Italian nobility, Cicognara involved himself initially in politics with the risorgimento of Italy in the late eighteenth century. He held such posts as deputy to the Congress of Lyons (1801), and Councilor of State. He was briefly incarcerated when warring factions found him guilty of conspiracy. In 1805 he left political life to devote himself to the arts. Cicognara wrote several tracts on esthetics, including Del Bello, ragiomenti sette (1808), which caught the attention of the newly founded Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice. He became the Academy's director, using this position to research and publish further in the fine arts. Inspired by the early art histories of Johann Joachim Winckelmann and Seroux d'Agincourt, he published a three-volume history of sculpture, Storia delta scultura between 1813 and 1818. More than a mere chronology of art or a collection of biographical anecdotes, his history of sculpture weaves history, literary and political events into a cogent text. For this accomplishment, Cicognara was awarded foreign member's status from the Institute of France. Beginning in 1815, he issued his survey of the monuments of Venice, which brought him international recognition. These volumes, learned guides to the city, were quickly translated into French as well as a second, updated Italian version. Perhaps because of his early career in politics, Cicogarna maintained that the Accademia's primary role was to serve the public. He was a motivating force in opening the museum associated with the Academy, (Gallerie dell'Accademia) in 1817. In the 1820s, Cicognara renewed a friendship with Canova, the sculptor carving his image in 1822 and the author completing a biography of Canova in 1823. Throughout his collecting and writing, Cicognara amassed a fabulous art library. In 1821 he published what might be today his most consulted book, the inventory of his own library. Catalogo ragionato dei libri d'arte is a snapshot of the available literature on art and art history. In its own time, the collection's value was evident enough for the Pope to purchase Cicognara's library in 1824. It remains a discrete collection housed in the Vatican today. In his final years, Cicognara wrote and researched on the enamel work known as calcography (niello). The popularity of this work created a demand for this genre of art, so much so that fakes were created and sold as part of the Count's collection. After Cicognara's death, his collection of fifteenth and sixteenth century engravings of calcographic pictures were assembled by his nephew, Count Nanetti, and Ch. Albrizzi, under the title, The First Century of Calcography (1837). Among Cicognara's contributions as an art historian were his recognition in 1824 that the spectacular Nymph of Fontainebleau was by Benvenuto Cellini. His attribution brought its relocation to the Louvre.
- Leopoldo Cicognara letters, 1806-1833., Getty Research Institute. https://primo.getty.edu/permalink/f/19q6gmb/GETTY_ALMA21126961360001551, 86-A1173.