Inside the Getty Research Institute’s Special Collections


The Getty Research Institute’s Special Collections section is rich with rare books, photos, prints and manuscripts, as well as entire archives of artists and art dealers. This material can be consulted by students and scholars who apply to be “stack readers.” Here are a few highlights from the last five centuries:

1530: A hand-colored scroll by Nikolas Hogenberg of Charles V’s coronation by Pope Clement VII in Bologna.

1749-1750: A first state, first edition set of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s celebrated “Prisons” etchings.

1860: An optical device from the collection of Werner Nekes, the experimental German filmmaker, that transforms a crowd scene from Versaille into fireworks.

1870s: The sketchbook of French painter Felix Bracquemond, which includes entries recording the violent events of the Paris Commune.

1881: An album of photographs of the Maghreb region of North Africa compiled by Abdu Rabbih al Whhab, including local mosques and palaces as well as studio portraits of prostitutes and dancers.

1893: The first full manuscript draft of “Noa Noa,” Paul Gauguin’s account of his stay in Tahiti.

1909-10: The key to Rodin’s studio on the Rue de Varenne in Paris from the archive of American sculptor Malvina Hoffman, who was the French sculptor’s student.

1909-64: The business archives of the firm founded by legendary art dealer Joseph Duveen, who nearly singlehandedly turned the likes of Henry Clay Frick and Henry E. Huntington into art collectors.

1939-1997: The archives of architectural photographer Julius Shulman, including 260,000 negatives as well as photographs featuring the full sweep of California modernism, starting with early houses by Neutra.

1985-2000: Papers written by and about the Guerrilla Girls, documenting their feminist art protests.

— Jori Finkel