Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli was descended from ancient aristocracy in Siena. His father, Mario Bianchi Bandinelli (1859-1930), was a one-time mayor of Siena and land baron whose forebears included Pope Alexander III (served 1159-1181). His mother, Margherita Ottilie "Lily" von Korn (Bianchi Bandinelli) (1878-1905) was German from minor noble lineage. He attended the liceo Guicciardini in Siena before entering the University in Rome in 1918, studying archaeology. His early research focused on the Etruscan centers close to his family lands. In 1924 he married Maria Garrone. His thesis, on the Etruscan town of Chiusi (Clusium), appeared in 1926. Another article followed on the Etruscan town of Suana (Sovana) in 1929. He joined the faculty at the Università di Cagliari in 1929 and the following year, University of Pisa. Bianchi Bandinelli sold his family's estate in 1934 after the death of his father, except for a smaller home, the villa Geggiano, where he would live to devote himself entirely to archaeology. He worked at the Museo archeologico in Florence, mapping the Etruscan sites. Between 1931-1933 he taught at the University in classical archeology at Groningen, the Netherlands. In 1935, he and Carlo Ragghinati founded the journal Critica d'Arte which, unlike other art journals, was open to all areas of art history, classical to modern. Important contributors to the journal included Roberto Longhi. He was appointed professor at the University in Florence in 1938, but with this, required to take an oath of fascism. His duties during this time including giving a tour of classical objects to Hitler and Mussolini. At the invitation of the German art historian Gerhart Rodenwaldt, Bianchi Bandinelli mounted a conference in Berlin on classical archaeology. His disgust with fascism in Italy grew and he declined to be present for a similar tour for Hermann Goering. His Storicità dell'arte classica, 1943, began a personal interest comprehensive art histories of the classical world. He converted to communism after World War II, and, as an anti-fascist, was appointed to a number of important art-historical positions immediate after the war. This included director of the new government's fine arts and antiquities (Antichità e Belle Arti, Ministerio della Pubblica Istruzione, 1945-1948). As a public official, Bianchi Bandinelli worked to separate Italy's reputation as a fascist country from its art reputation by loaning works to international exhibitions. He quelled post-war fears in Italy when Italian newpapers published erroneous reports that the Allies would demand art treasures from Italy as war reparations. From his chairs at the university of Florence and later Rome, he directed the new breed of Italian archaeologists sensitive to classical history based upon dialectical materialism. He also taught at the university of Groeningen. In the 1950's he returned to his idea of a comprehensive text on classical art for the general, educated public. He founded the Enciclopedia dell'arte antica in 1958. In the mid 1960s, Bianchi Bandinelli was commissioned to write the two volumes on Roman art for the important French Arts of Mankind series. These works brought his writing to a larger audience and helped usher in social criteria for classical art history to a larger and English-speaking audience. In 1967 he founded the periodical Dialoghi di archeologia with his students, one of the most innovative, if controversial, periodicals on classical archaeology. His students included Giovanni Becatti, Antonio Giuliano, Mario Torelli (b. 1937), Andrea Caladnrini (b. 1937) and Filippo Coarelli (b. 1936). His memoir of fascism in Italy was published after his death in 1995.
Bianchi Bandinelli brought a scholarly brand of Marxism to the world of art history in the early 1970s. Eschewing so-called "crass Marxist" analysis, his work, most clearly in his English translations of surveys of Roman art, brought his wider set of criteria to English-speaking audiences. His early work on the relationship of Roman art to Greece and Etruscan art drew from the writings of Alois Reigl and Franz Wickhoff. His singular interprestations of art--not always compelling--were amply grounded. He viewed the Belvedere Apollo, for example--a Roman copy of a Greek original now thought to be second century--hailed by most art historians as a work the original of which was by Leochares, as a frigid copy of a Hellenistic work without relation to the master. His magazine Critica d'Arte became the model for other Italian art magazines, most notably Prospettiva, founded by Giovanni Previtali and Mauro Cristofani (1941-1997). Bianchi Bandinelli's family castle in Siena was used as a backdrop in the film 1950 film The Deported by Robert Siodmak (1900-1973).
Sources: Jewell, Edward Allen. "Foreign Art Heads Brooklyn Display." New York Times April 15, 1947, p. 23; Bianchi Bandinelli, Ranuccio. Dal diario di un borghese e altri scritti. Rome: Editori riuniti, 1976; Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, pp. 137-8; Ridgway, F. R. "Bianchi Bandinelli, Ranuccio." Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Nancy Thomson de Grummond, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, vol. 1, p. 144 (note on Belvedere Apollo) and 158; Barzanti, Roberto. Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli: archeologo curioso del futuro. Siena: Protagon, 1994; Barbanera, Marcello. Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli e il suo mondo. Bari: Edipuglia/Rome: Università degli studi di Roma "La Sapienza", 2000; Steuernagel, Dirk. "Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli: Zwischen historismus und historischem Materialismus." Hephaistos 19/20 (2001/2002): 203-18; Barbanera, Marcello. Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli: biografia ed epistolario di un grande archeologo. Milan: Skira, 2003; [obituary] von Blanckenhagen, Peter H. "Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli." Archaeology (April 1975): 125; "Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli, Italian Archeologist, 74, Dies." New York Times January 18, 1975, p. 27. Bibliography: [dissertation:] published, Clusium: Ricerche archeologich e topografiche su Chiusi il suo territorio in età etrusca. Rome: G. Bardi, Rip. della R. accademia nazionale dei Lincei, 1925; Apollo di Belvedere. Florence: G.C. Sansoni, 1935; Storicità dell'arte classica. Florence: G.C. Sansoni, 1943; Nozioni di storia dell'archeologia e di storiografia dell'arte antica: lezioni introduttive del corso di archeologia. Florence: Soc. editrice universitaria, 1952; [edited] Enciclopedia dell'arte antica, classica e orientale. 7 [original] vols. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana 1958-1966; and Peroni, Renato, and Colonna, Giovanni. Arte etrusca e arte italica. Rome: Istituto della enciclopedia italiana, 1963; [edited] Dialoghi di archeologia (serial). Milan: Il Saggiatore di Alberto Mondadori Editore, 1967-1992; and Vergara Caffarelli, Ernesto,and Caputo, Giacomo, et al. The Buried City: Excavations at Leptis Magna. New York: F. A. Praeger 1966; Roma: L'arte romana nel centro del potere. Milan: Feltrinelli, 1969, English, Rome: The Center of Power, 500 B.C. to A.D. 200. New York: Braziller, 1970; Roma: La fine dell'arte antica. Milan: Feltrinelli, 1970, English, Rome: The Late Empire, Roman Art A.D. 200-400. New York: Braziller, 1971; Hitler e Mussolini, 1938: il viaggio del Führer in Italia. Rome: E/o, 1995. Storicità dell'arte classica".
The Institute is named after its founder Aby Warburg (1866-1929). Born in Hamburg, Warburg studied the history of art in Bonn, Florence and Strasbourg before graduating with a doctoral thesis on Botticelli's mythologies. Following Jakob Burckhardt, he came increasingly to feel the limitations of a predominantly stylistic approach to the history of art, and sought contact with the emerging Kulturwissenschaft of the anthropologists. The years succeeding his graduation were devoted to research in the archives of Florence, so as to build up a detailed picture of the intellectual and social milieu of Lorenzo de' Medici's circle. From this inquiry, Warburg was led to ask what the Florentines of his chosen period saw in antiquity, and why symbols created in a pagan context reappeared with renewed vitality in fifteenth-century Italy. Thus he conceived the programme of illustrating the processes by which the memory of the past affects a culture. The paradigm he chose was the influence of antiquity on modern European civilization in all its aspects – social, political, religious, scientific, philosophical, literary and artistic – and he ordered his private library in Hamburg accordingly.
In 1913 Warburg was joined by Fritz Saxl (1890-1948) who, in 1921, turned the library into a research institute. The further development of the Institute, especially after Warburg's death in 1929, was guided by Saxl, whose interests ranged over the history of art and religion, from the study of Mithraic monuments and astrological manuscripts to Rembrandt and Velázquez. Like Warburg, Saxl taught at the University of Hamburg where Erwin Panofsky and Ernst Cassirer, were his colleagues. The publications which appeared under his editorship show how large was the circle of scholars whom he attracted and who helped to shape the Institute's outlook and traditions.
One of Warburg's and Saxl's last and unaccomplished projects was the Mnemosyne Atlas
After the rise of the Nazi régime, Saxl accepted the invitation of an adhoc committee to transfer the Institute to London where, with the support of Lord Lee of Fareham, Samuel Courtauld and the Warburg family, it was installed in Thames House in 1934, moving to the Imperial Institute Buildings, South Kensington, in 1937. In 1944 the Institute was incorporated in the University of London. In 1994 it became a founder-member of the University's School of Advanced Study.
Saxl was succeeded as Director by Henri Frankfort (1897-1954), whose interest in the links between religion and social organization in the Ancient Near East extended the Institute's range. He was followed in 1955 by Gertrud Bing (1892-1964), whose career at the Institute had begun in 1922. Under her Directorship the Institute moved into its permanent home in a new building on the University site in 1958. From 1959 to 1976 Sir Ernst H. Gombrich O.M. (1909-2001) was Director, from 1976 to 1990, J. B. Trapp, from 1991 to 2001, Nicholas Mann.
The present Director is Charles Hope.