LettresArt. The Correspondence of Artists in Rome, 1750-1850

Maria-Pia DONATO (Researcher/ CNRS)
Agnes TRICOCHE (Research/ CNRS)
, updated on
17 July 2021

Exploring the networks of artists Rome from 1750 to 1850 beyond linguistic, political and cultural borders through their correspondences.

The research project ‘Artists letters investigates the changing contours of the European art world through the correspondences of the artists living and working in Rome in the period spanning from 1750 to 1850. The digital humanities project originated from a larger research programme affiliated to the Ecole française de Rome, investigating several aspects of the history and historiography of art in that period.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, a truly cosmopolitan ‘Republic of the Arts’ took form across political and cultural borders. Rome was one of its major hubs. Artists from all over Europe and the Americas sojourned in the Eternal City for longer or shorter periods (some actually never left); they came into contact with each other and with a vibrant transnational community of connoisseurs, dealers and grand-tourists, while remaining in touch with their family, amateurs and patrons back home. Artists’ letters provide a unique source to capture the transformations that occurred during this period in the art market and artistic networks, as well as in patterns of patronage and artists’ education and training.

James Jefferys, Letter to Mr. Brenchly, Maidstone, Kent, 1771-1775

Two databases have been created, one for internal collaborative use hosted by HUMA-NUM platform at CNRS; the other one for public display on the Early Modern Letters On-Line platform at Oxford University and Bodleian Library.

Metadata were collected from both printed editions of letters and unpublished correspondences by a team of scholars and students. Although the collection, treatment and editing of data rapidly proved very complex and time-consuming, and although the selection of corpora is biased by the 19th- and early 20th-century traditions of editions of documents, the data published so far already enable historians to questions such national narratives of art history by disclosing wider and more complex networks.



  • Maria Pia Donato, directrice de recherche CNRS, IHMC
  • Giovanna Capitelli, prof., Università Roma Tre
  • Serenella Rolfi, prof. Università Roma Tre (+ 2020)

Main collaborators

  • Carla Mazzarelli, MdC, Università della Svizzera Italiana
  • Susanne A. Meyer, MdC, Università di Macerata
  • Tiziano Casola, doctorant, Università « G. d’Annunzio » di Chieti Pescara
  • Ilenia Falbo, post-doctorante, Università della Calabria
  • Teresa Montefusco, doctorante, Università della Svizzera Italiana

IT Manager

  • Agnès Tricoche, AOROC - CNRS ENS PSL

Other collaborators

  • Rosalba Dinoia
  • Sofia Ekman
  • Irina Emelianova
  • Noemi Forte
  • Annalisa Laganà
  • Gianmarco Nicoletti 
  • Ludovica Scalzo
  • Morena Vitellio


  • M.P. Donato (dir.), Lettere, corrispondenze, reti epistolari. Tradizioni disciplinari a confronto, numéro thématique de Mélanges de l’Ecole française de Rome. Italie, Méditerranée, 132/2, 2020
  • S. Rolfi Ožvald, C. Mazzarelli (dir.), Il carteggio d’artista. Fonti, questioni, ricerche tra XVII e XIX secolo, Cinisello Balsamo, 2019.
  • G. Capitelli, S. Rolfi Ožvald (dir.), Lettere di Artista, numéro thématique de Ricerche di storia dell'arte, 125, 2018.


  • Storie dell’arte digitali. Risorse e progetti, 2 mars 2021, webinair EFR
  • La lettera d'artista come patrimonio nazionale. Reti intellettuali e iniziative nell'Ottocento italiano, 27 novembre 2020, webinair EFR
  • Cartas de artistas entre España, América y Europa en el siglo XIX, 6-7 mai 2019, Madrid, Museo Lazaro Galdiano
  • Lettere, corrispondenze, reti epistolari: a che punto siamo?, 8-9 novembre 2018, Rome, KNIR-EFR,
  • Censimento e schedatura dei carteggi artistici. Cantieri aperti e problemi interpretativi, 6 novembre 2017, Rome, Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte)

Internal workshops

  • Edizione, trattamento e archiviazione digitale delle corrispondenze artistiche, atelier animé par E.J. Bencard (Arkivet, Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenaghen), 15 septembre 2016, Rome, Università degli studi Roma Tre
  • La trasmigrazione dei dati sulle corrispondenze degli artisti 1750-1850 sulle piattaforme HumaNum CNRS e Early Modern Letters On-line. Questioni e prospettive, 19 septembre 2019, Rome, Università degli studi Roma Tre