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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Chair for the History of Science

M.A. Julia Bärnighausen

M.A. Julia Bärnighausen

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Julia Bärnighausen M. A. is doctoral candidate at the chair for the history of science at Humboldt University in Berlin and academic collaborator in the cooperation project „Photo-Objects. Photographs as (Research) Objects in Archaeology, Ethnology and Art History” in the photo library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut. She studied art and visual history as well as history at Humboldt University. During this time she also worked as a student assistant in the database project „Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known in the Renaissance“ (Berlin Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften), in the research project „The Technical Image“ (Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik, Humboldt University) and in the Alfred Ehrhardt foundation in Berlin. In 2014 she graduated with a Master’s thesis on strategies of art historical practices as exemplified by the image collection of Wilhelm Fraenger. Until 2015 Julia was academic collaborator in the Alfred Ehrhardt foundation, where she oversaw the historical photo archive. She co-organized the international symposium „Photo-Objects. On the Materiality of Photographs and Photo-Archives in the Humanities and Sciences“ at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz in February 2017.


Research interests

  • archives and collections
  • history of photography
  • history and theory of art history/the humanities
  • international art trade around 1900.


Current project

Photo-Itineraries: The Galleria Sangiorgi in Rome. A case study on photographic practices in 19th and early 20th century art-dealing  (working title)

The dissertation project explores a series of photographs attributed to the Galleria Sangiorgi in Rome and recently rediscovered in the decorative arts section of the photo library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence – Max-Planck-Institute. On account of their strikingly complex materiality and their revealing visual qualities, they open up a trans-temporal network of different actors, including the photographs themselves as historically shaped and mobile “photo-objects”.

The Galleria Sangiorgi was founded by the Italian entrepreneur Giuseppe Sangiorgi (1850–1928) at the Palazzo Borghese in Rome in 1892. It soon became one of the world’s largest and most successful art-dealing and auction houses. Today it is almost unknown amongst historians and art historians. Like many of his contemporaries, Sangiorgi kept a workshop where the antiquities from his collection were reproduced for sale. The photographs, which  were used as reference copies, communication devices and samples, circulated amongst collectors, art-dealers, artists and photographers inside and outside the gallery and between its representations in New York, Paris and London. Through partly unknown itineraries they  were spread across different archives. A large holding of both photographs and drawings deriving from Sangiorgi has been preserved at the photo library of the Fondazione Zeri in Bologna. The Florentine photo-archive constitutes yet another (epistemic) layer in the sedimentation of these documents, which took on a whole new set of meanings within the context of an art-historical image collection.

The thesis attempts to reconstruct the history of the Sangiorgi family and their gallery as well as examine practices of art-dealing around 1900. This work will be underpinned by a series of interviews and archival research in Italy, France and Germany as well as in the USA and in the UK. Above all, the case study aims to uncover the epistemological potential that lies within photographs if they are not only considered as images but also as material and “three-dimensional” objects with their own biographies.

Picture-Information: Mirror (1st h. 18th c.), albumen print on cardboard, unidentified photographer (Galleria Sangiorgi, Rome), around 1900, 26 x 13,7 cm (cardboard), inv. no. 615786, dep. ”Kunstgewerbe” in the photo library,  Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut.




  • „Foto-Objekte und Kunstgewerbe in der Photothek. Eine Onlineausstellung des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz“, concept: Julia Bärnighausen and Almut Goldhahn, http://photothek.khi.fi.it/documents/ oau/00000284.  
  • „Zur Materialität und Mobilität von Fotografien und Foto-Archiven“, in: Urbane Künste Ruhr, Vol. 1/2016 (Mobilität), pp. 44­–47.
  • With Stefanie Klamm, Franka Schneider, Petra Wodtke: Into the Archive: On the Materiality of Photographs. An Online Exhibition of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, http://photothek.khi.fi.it/documents/oau/00000303.
  • With Stefanie Klamm, Franka Schneider, Petra Wodtke: Die Materialität des Punktum. Zum Potential ko-laborativer Objekt- und Sammlungsanalysen in Foto-Archiven, in: Eine Fotografie. Über die transdisziplinären Möglichkeiten der Bildforschung, hrsg. v. Irene Ziehe und Ulrich Hägele, Berlin 2017 (in print).