Great European Libraries: Photographs by Massimo Listri

December 10, 2010, through January 9, 2011
Photograph of Biblioteca del Trinity College

In 1902 when Pierpont Morgan commissioned Charles Follen McKim to design a library to house his growing collection of books and manuscripts, the architect conceived an Italianate marble villa that paid homage to the High Renaissance. On the occasion of the most extensive restoration of the McKim building's sumptuous interiors in over a hundred years, the Morgan Library & Museum presents an exhibition of photographs by Massimo Listri documenting iconic European libraries that similarly use fine wood, marble, and other precious materials to create an opulent setting for books.

The large-format photographs, almost five feet in width and four feet in height, dramatically capture the beauty of the libraries, which were built from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries. They represent an array of private, public, ecclesiastical, and academic institutions. Among them are the Malatestiana Library in Cesena, Italy, which was completed in 1454 and survives in its original building with its collection and furnishings intact; the St. Gall Monastery Library in Switzerland, which is a fine example of the Rococo style; the magnificent Long Room of Trinity College Library at the University of Dublin, where the Book of Kells is kept; the Laurentian Library in Florence, which was designed by Michelangelo; and the Vatican Library's sumptuous quarters, which were constructed between 1585 and 1590.

Massimo Listri is a Florence-based photographer whose work often presents interiors of great architectural and cultural importance. He has photographed ancient castles, villas, and palaces as well as hidden gardens, libraries, convents, monasteries, and universities. His photographs have been exhibited in numerous public and private institutions, including Palazzo Reale, Milan; Palazzo Pitti, Florence; and Centro per 'larte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato. Over his career, he has produced fifty-eight books on art and architecture. Among the titles are Il fascino delle biblioteche (in which most of the photographs in this exhibition appear), Il fascino dei musei, Italian Parks and Gardens, Where Muses Dwell: Homes of Great Artists and Writers, and Magnificent Italian Villas and Palaces.

This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Regione Toscana in collaboration with Centro per l'arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci-Prato. For more information, please visit

Massimo Listri, Biblioteca del Trinity College, Dublin, 1992, lambda print. Courtesy Centro per l'arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci.