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Guide to the Acton Visual Materials at La Pietra
(Bulk 1907-1980)
 MSS La Pietra 001

Villa La Pietra

Collection processed by Alta Macadam

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on December 22, 2016
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Acton family
Title: The Acton Photograph Archive
Dates [inclusive]: 1870-1994
Dates [bulk]: Bulk, 1907-1980
Abstract: The visual material in this Archive relates to the lives of the Acton family: Arthur Acton (1873-1953), his wife Hortense Mitchell (1871-1962), and their two sons Harold (1904-1994) and William (1906-1945). These loose photographs, photograph albums, negatives, scrapbooks, postcards, as well as images on glass, had been stored by the family at random in boxes, files, drawers, cupboards, desks, hat boxes, etc. in various rooms of their residence Villa La Pietra, Florence (much of it mixed with correspondence and other papers) from around 1903 up until Harold Acton’s death in 1994. The Archive includes remarkably fine early studio portraits, many cabinet card photos bearing an albumen or gelatin silver print taken at the end of the 19th century for the Mitchell family and their circle in Chicago, and some cartes-de-visite photos dating from circa 1870 of Arthur Acton’s ancestors. There is a very full documentation of the Acton family’s life at Villa La Pietra, including visitors to the villa, from the first years of the 20th century up to Harold’s death. This is of particular interest as a documentation of the Anglo-American resident community in Florence. Travels taken in Europe and America during this time by members of the family are also well illustrated. There are numerous photographs of Harold Acton’s famous circle of friends at Oxford in the 1920s. A valuable series of photographs of China and actors from the Peking Opera survive from the 1930s when Harold lived and taught in Beijing.

There is also a complete documentation of the various phases of the Actons' construction of the garden of Villa La Pietra and their work on it from the very first years. Another series of photos show how the interior of Villa La Pietra has appeared over the decades, and document the various works of art which decorate the rooms or have done so in the past. Other photographs of works of art document private collections in the early 20th century, many of which have since been broken up. There are numerous photographs of works of art, purchased by the Actons for study purposes. Other photographs are of places (all over the world), and there is a particularly rich collection of images of Italian villas and gardens in Florence and Tuscany. The collection of postcards (excepting those with correspondence which have been extracted for the paper archives) is very extensive and includes many annotated on the verso documenting travels by Hortense or Harold in the first decades of the 20th century.

The valuable collection of glass stereographs and autochromes includes numerous images of the family at Villa La Pietra and its garden.

Professional photographs of the family in Florence include works by Nunes Vais and Cecil Beaton. There is a series of photographs of Villa Passerini in Florence, owned by Hortense Mitchell's brother Guy, dating from the first decades of the 20th century by Giuseppe and Vittorio Jacquier. There are also photographs of places in Italy by Carlo Naya (died 1882) and Giorgio Sommer (died 1914).

The number of items in the Acton Photograph Archive, including positives and negatives and images on glass (but excluding postcards) is circa 16,700.

Restrictions Apply. Please see the Administrative Information section for more details.
Quantity: 100.0 Linear feet
Location note: Villa La Pietra
Via Bolognese, 120
50139 Florence, Italy
Tel. +39 055 5007 225
Call Phrase: MSS La Pietra 001