The library is currently open to external readers upon registration and in the limit of seat capacity.
Consultations are allowed to art historians, members of other Academies in Rome, Art history students, Architecture and Musicology students by appointment only.
For information & registration: +39 06 67 61 263 or by email [email protected]
The French Academy in Rome owes the creation of its library to Joseph- Benoît Suvée, the first director of the post-revolutionary period, who intended to establish an important study means for the fellows, like the ones established in the main Academies of Fine Arts in France and Italy. The first book collection – the two thirds of which is still part of the library – came from the revolutionary confiscation of the Cordeliers convent in Paris and was completed with an acquisition campaign achieved by the French Ministry of Interior. For the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, there was not a librarian in charge and the number of volumes rose thank only to donations and bequests. The Library was first settled into the apartment of the Cardinal and later arranged in one of the first floor’s small salon.In the middle of the 19th century found its place in the Italian Grand Salon, then around the Napoleon III massive libraries where also were placed busts of directors and the monumental statues of Louis XIV and Louis XVIII.
It is only in 1964 that specific funds were allocated to the books’ acquisition, a librarian was appointed and new wire-shelves were provided, all under the direction of Balthus (from 1961 to 1977). The Library found its final location in the old gallery of the Cardinal Ferdinand of Medici’s antiques at the same period. The art historian Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios donated his important book collection on Fine Arts, only a part of which has already been transferred to Villa Medici along with an important and unique photo library. This recent gaining has endorsed the Villa Medici’s library to be considered one of the greatest decorative arts library in Rome.
The library collection is mainly in French and has open access. It is composed of more than thirty-seven thousand volumes, faithfully reflecting the main disciplines at the French Academy, Fine Arts, Architecture and History and of books on Photography, Cinema, Design and Scenography as well as music and literature. The cotalogue is partly available on line through the École Française de Rome internet site or the SUDOC.
The old collection consists of about 800 books prior to the 19th century. Most of these volumes are publications of the 18th century. There are also seven books of the 16th century and 32 books of the 17th century. Among the “treasures” of the library we can mention Félibien‘s scripts, Pietro Santi Bartoli engravings, The Engravings of the King Cabinet and The Antiquity explained by Bernard de Montfaucon. An almost entire collection of Piranesi‘s engravings, several travel books on Italy (by Lalande, Labat, L’abbé de Saint-Non) as well as ancient publications of various theoretical treaties on Art (by Dürer, Félibien, Roger de Piles, Mengs, Winckelmann) and numerous books on ancient and modern Rome by architects such as Desgodez, Guattani, Falda, Percier et Fontaine, Bartoli, Lagardette. The editions of the 19th century, in addition to History of art (La Vie des peintres by Landon), cover in particular two areas: the Architecture, with major works by Quatremere de Quincy, Viollet-Le-Duc, Canine, Valadier and Music.
The old collection of the library (catalogued thanks to the agreement with the Palazzetto Bru Zane), consists mostly of sheets music ranging from Lully to Bizet and Saint-Saëns operas, passing through the major 17th and 18th century French theatre. Well represented in the opera production of the second half of the 18th century thanks to the sheets music of Italian musicians who had emigrated to France such as Piccinni, Sacchini and Paisiello. There is also a small group of manuscripts and a catalogue compiled by Paul Russo and Irene Maffei which was published in 1999 by the publisher LS Olschki. Among the “treasures” of the Library we also can mention the booklets of the Muro Torto Collection, in which the Residents of the 70s and 80s have printed manually poems and short stories anthologies.
Besides a few manuscripts, the library keeps the drawings which were part of the Villa Medici Museum, created in the 30s by the director Denys Puech and dedicated to the French art. These publications as well as travel drawings donated to Villa Medici by the architect Alfred Nicolas Normand and a few works of the Nadia Boulanger’s contribution. One of the Library’s current missions is to provide a survey of artistic events through the acquisition of the main exhibitions’ catalogues in France and abroad and the most important artists’ monographs. However the priority is always given to the relations between France and Italy, from Renaissance to contemporary time. As for Music, the purchases are focused on contemporary music scores.