Biblioteca di Fermo, Italy

2012, Printed Later
Archival Lambda Color Photograph

Signed, titled, dated and from edition of 5 on artist’s label on verso.

Available in 3 sizes: 100 x 120 cm. (39.4 x 47.2 in.), 120 x 150 cm. (47.2 x 59.1 in.), 180 x 225 cm. (70.9 x 88.6 in.)

Massimo Listri’s photograph of the Biblioteca di Fermo in Italy offers a mesmerizing glimpse into the richly appointed space. Shot from the center of the room, the composition showcases four angled chairs upholstered in hide, positioned around a large terrestrial globe at the room’s center. Behind the chairs, a doorway leads to another room filled with books, partially visible through the open door. Light streams in from the second floor of bookshelves and windows on the right-hand side, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

In the 17th century, Fermo was a flourishing university city. Famous individuals such as the scholarly diplomat, Cardinal Decio Azzolino the Younger (1623-1689), embarked on their professional paths here, before carving out careers in Rome, the capital of the Papal States to which Fermo likewise belonged. At this point in time, however, Fermo still had no broad-based public library of academic merit.

The first proposal to establish such a library came from Cardinal Azzolino in 1671, the same year in which his uncle Paolo Ruffo (1597-1671), a jurist and member of the local patriciate, bequeathed his own library to the municipality for the same purpose. In 1687 these two, possibly rival donations were combined and the former theatre inside the Palazzo dei Priori was chosen as the future home of the new library.

Working to Azzolino’s precise specifications and with the supervision of the architect Adamo Sacripante, the theatre was converted in 1688 into a library magnificently furnished in walnut, in which valuable historical holdings are still displayed today. Situated in the immediate vicinity of the university, founded in 1511, it was intended as a libraria universale that would serve as a repository of all the latest scholarship and knowledge.

For Azzolino, this aspiration was met not only by his own collection of books, but in particular by the library assembled by the Roman mathematician Michelangelo Ricci (1619-1682), which was purchased for Fermo in 1691. Ricci, in common with a select circle of scientists and literati, had benefited from the generous patronage of the former Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689), resident in Rome since her abdication and conversion to Catholicism.

The geographer and cosmographer Silvestro Amanzio Moroncelli (1652-1719) was also active in Christina’s sphere and created the large terrestrial globe that stands in the center of the library. Azzolino enjoyed a particular relationship of trust with Christina, having served as her advisor since her arrival in Rome in 1655. A gilt cartouche containing the name “Christina” over the entrance to the Sala del Mappamondo makes it plain that he wished to dedicate the library to her. Christina appointed Azzolino as her universal heir, but he died barely two months after her.

With the death of these two patrons, building work on the library also came to a halt. The coffered ceiling remained unfinished and the promised books only arrived many years later. The library finally opened to the public in 1705 following the efforts of Christina’s physician, Romola Spezioli.