Bibliotheca Hertziana - Max Planck Institute for Art History

Bibliotheca Hertziana - Max Planck Institute for Art History

The Bibliotheca Hertziana is recognized internationally as a unique centre dedicated to research in Italian art history. Having emerged from a foundation championed by Henriette Hertz (1846–1913), it was opened in 1913 as an institute of the former Kaiser Wilhelm Society in Rome. The Institute is committed to research in the visual arts and architecture from antiquity to the 20th century, and the significance this holds for European culture.

Current research focuses of the Bibliotheca Hertziana are the global South, in particular southern Italy, the Mediterranean region and Latin America. Since 2015, research on the Middle Ages and its reception, on the representations of spaces in texts and maps, and on Naples has been a particular priority; since 2017, the project ‘Rome Contemporary’ has also placed a focus on modern and contemporary art.

The Institute is committed to training outstanding scholars through numerous research funding programmes for doctoral and postdoctoral students. In addition, internationally renowned scholars are regularly invited to conduct research at the Bibliotheca Hertziana as well as supported with museum scholarships.


Via Gregoriana 28
00187 Rom
Phone: +39 0669993 1
Fax: +39 0669993 333

PhD opportunities

This institute has no International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS).

There is always the possibility to do a PhD. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Leeuwenhoek's specimens and original microscope reunited in historic photoshoot


Intricate brightness

January 15, 2013

After ten years of construction, the Bibliotheca Hertziana has opened its new premises. More than 300 guests from the German-Italian cultural life, politics and Curia attended the ceremony in Rome.


The volcanic cone of Vesuvius looms over Naples – as both a landmark and a fateful reminder for the southern Italian metropolis. For centuries, its eruptions and earthquakes have left their mark here. Elisabetta Scirocco, a researcher at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, the Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome, examines how these natural phenomena have shaped the city’s art and architecture.

Every city map, and every map in general, contains stories about the time at which it was produced. At the Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte in Rome, art historian Tanja Michalsky is studying how people have measured the world. Her research is expanding the area covered by her subject and even includes films by Federico Fellini and David Lynch.

Caravaggio is one of the most influential artists of the Early Baroque. He is especially well known for his dramatic lighting effects. The technique he used to create these was something he guarded like a trade secret. As a result, legends surrounded the painter even during his lifetime. Sybille Ebert-Schifferer, Director at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome, has taken on the task of demystifying Caravaggio’s image.

The gaping, terrifying jaws of hell in Rome’s Via Gregoriana: in Federico Zuccari’s day, the entryway led directly into the garden of the palazzo that the famous painter commissioned on Pincian Hill for himself and his family in the late 16th century. Long closed to the public, the palazzo was reopened at the beginning of the year and now serves as a portal to paradise for art historians and all who are interested in art history. Rising behind lofty heritage-protected walls and barely visible from the street, a compact yet finely wrought new building is home to a library containing almost 300,000 volumes and the photographic collection of the Bibliotheca Hertziana. Bequeathed to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in the early 20th century by patron Henriette Hertz, the Bibliotheca Hertziana is celebrating its centennial this year as the Max Planck Institute for Art History. In addition to the Palazzo Zuccari, the centerpiece of the institute, the current premises also include the neighboring Palazzo Stroganoff and the Villino Stroganoff on the opposite side of the street. Following the opening of the spectacular new library building designed by Spanish architect Juan Navarro Baldeweg after more than ten years in construction, the institute library – the only one of its kind in the world – is once again open to the public and to researchers from around the globe. Five levels of tiered galleries are grouped around a trapezoidal inner courtyard, providing scholars with light-flooded working areas. In addition, the windows offer a generous view over the Eternal City: art historians thus have the object of their research directly before their eyes. A truly paradisiacal garden for academic pursuits.

In the early years of the 20th century, artists, scientists and academics of all walks, united in their love for Italian art, gathered frequently at the Palazzo Zuccari. Hostess of this cultural salon was a German art lover and patron, Henriette Hertz. Her ideas still live on today at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, which she bequeathed to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society.

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Art history and the decolonisation of the museum

2023 Belmonte, Carmen

Cultural Studies

At the Bibliotheca Hertziana (dep. Weddigen), a research project investigates the social and material history of colonial objects, bringing to light the dynamics of violence and power that have left their mark. It also looks at the potential role of these objects in today’s transcultural society. In collaboration with the anthropological Museo delle Civiltà, the team participates in the museum’s process of decolonisation, unveiling the political use of its collections in the Fascist era. 


“Wastework” or “Waste, Heritage and Art History”

2022 Borgo, Francesca

Cultural Studies

A research project led by the Lise Meitner Group at the Bibliotheca Hertziana is exploring waste, heritage and the links between the two. Taking a historical approach, it analyses the ways in which by-products of early modern artistic processes were not wasted but rather reused, often in other objects. The group also takes a contemporary view, reflecting on the role waste as a cultural product has played and continues to play in shaping our societies. The group’s ongoing “Wastework” initiative ties both these research strands together.


Naples on film (1932–1963). Urbanism, space, time

2021 Carlo Ugolotti

Cultural Studies

This research project provides an analysis of the different cinematic representations of Neapolitan urban space across the first half of the XXth Century – from Fascist Cinema up to the Early Sixties. The analysis focuses on how the image of the city has been constructed by films throughout these decades. The recurrent features of Cinematic Naples have been identified and analysed under the categories of temporality and spatiality in order to attest how Naples can be considered a unique setting for Italian cinema.


Mapping sacred space

2020 Scirocco, Elisabetta; Longo, Ruggero

Cultural Studies

A medieval church was a complex system in which spaces, objects and decorations provided the framework for the liturgy but also the scenario for a variety of other social activities. By integrating archaeometric analyses into research methods of archaeology and art history and with the help of digital technologies, a project of the Bibliotheca Hertziana investigates forms, functions and the aesthetics of medieval sacred spaces through digital mapping and 3D reconstructions.


Communicating the previously invisible: Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and his microscopic experiments

2019 Fransen, Sietske; Cocquyt, Tiemen; van Egmond, Wim; Kusukawa, Sachiko

Cultural Studies

To understand better the methods of visual communication of new scientific discoveries in the seventeenth century, this project focusses on the Dutch microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. With a team of experts on visual culture, early modern microscopy, and modern photomicrography, we investigated the earliest surviving microscopic specimens made by Leeuwenhoek himself through one of his hand-made microscopes. We compared the results to his original letters and drawings, resulting into new insights into the epistemological value of drawings in the seventeenth-century microscopy.

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