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Venturi, Adolfo

    Full Name: Venturi, Adolfo

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1856

    Date Died: 1941

    Place Born: Modena, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

    Place Died: Santa Margherita Ligure, Genova, Italy

    Home Country/ies: Italy

    Subject Area(s): Italian (culture or style), Medieval (European), and Modern (style or period)


    Historian of Italian art and pioneer of the modern school of art history in Italy (Bazin 419); chair in Medieval and Modern Art at the University of Rome (1896-1931). Venturi was the son of Gaetano Venturi and Maria Barbieri (Venturi). He took courses at the academy and technical school in Modena, largely teaching himself classical history through access of the excellent library of G. B. Toesca. Acting as a private tutor, he saved enough money to attend the Institute of advanced studies in Florence. He studied the monuments in Florence and then Bologna, Venice, and ultimately Milan. In 1878 he was appointed curator at the Galleria Estense in Modena. Venturi used his position to scour the Emilian archives, grounding himself in what was now his career of art history. In 1888 he was appointed general inspector of the Belle Arti at the Ministry of Public Instruction in Rome. There he revitalized the rather traditional institution. He instituted the first formal training on treatment of works of art as well as the outline for the development of a catalog of the national artistic heritage. In 1896 requested a faculty appointment as chair in Medieval and Modern Art at the University of Rome where he instituted courses on modern art. As professor of art, he was particularly influenced by Benedetto Croce‘s aesthetics, especially Croce’s the emphasis the individual in history. In the United States, Venturi weighed in on a celebrated authenticity debate of a version of a purported Leonardo painting, La Bella Ferroniere, owned by a Kansas City couple. Venturi’ defended the opinion of Sir Josef Duveen, then being sued by the Mrs. Hahn, that the painting was a low copy. The incident provoked Hahn’s husband into writing The Rape of La Belle (1946). Venturi remained at the University until his retirement in 1931. With Count Dominico Gnoli (1838-1915), Ventrui founded the journal, Archivio storico d’arte (after 1901, L’Arte) in 1888, editing it until 1940. He succeeded Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) as a member of the Paris Institute in 1901. His son, Lionello Venturi was also an art historian. His students included the Venetianist Giuseppe Fiocco. His unfinished twenty-five volume Storia dell’arte italiana (History of Italian Art), spanning early Christian art to the 16th century established a truly Italian art history, freeing it from dependence on foreign scholars. Methodologically, Venturi employed a conoisseurship-style to his art history. In the depression era of the United States in the 1930, his monograph was selected for translation by workers of the Works Project Administration (never published) in 1939.

    Selected Bibliography

    La Madonna: Svolgimenyo artistico delle rappresentazzioni dell Vergine. Milan: 1900.; Storia dell’arte italiana. 25 vols. Milan: Hopeli, 1901-1938, abridged English version, A Short History of Italian Art. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1926; and unpublished English translation by John Rodighierro and [the] assistance of Illinois WPA Project 30275. Chicago: s.n., 1939 [MS Art Institute of Chicago], Exhibition of Pictures, Drawings & Photographs of Works of the School of Ferrara-Bologna, 1440-1540. London: Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1894; Luca Signorelli interprete di Dante. Florence: F. Le Monnier, 1921; Pisanello. Rome: Palombi, 1939; Paolo Veronese: per il IV centenario dalla nascita. Milan: U. Hoepli, 1928; preface. Gibellino Krasceninnicowa, Maria. Il Beccafumi. Siena: Istituto communale d’arte e di storia, 1933; Il museo e la galleria Borghese. Rome: Società laziale, 1893; La pittura del Quattrocento nell’Emilia and La pittura del Quattrocento nell’alta Italia. English, North Italian Painting of the Quattrocento. 2 vols. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1931; Piero della Francesca. Florence: G. & P. Alinari, 1922; The Madonna: a Pictorial Representation of the Life and Death of the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ by the Painters and Sculptors [etc.]. London: Burns & Oates, 1902; Exhibition of Italian Art, 1200-1900. [exhibition catalog] London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1930; La galleria Crespi in Milano: note e raffronti. Milan: V. Hoepli, 1900; L’Arte a San Girolamo. Milan: Fratelli Treves, 1924.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, pp. 47, 67 cited; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 149, 419-420; [obituaries:] “Adolfo Venturi, 84, an Art Authority.” New York Times June 11, 1941, p. 21.


    "Venturi, Adolfo." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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