The collection consists of around 70,000 original silver gelatin prints. Most of them are size 18x24 cm., the oldest ones dating back to the late 19th century and the first decades of the 20th, even though the greater part is from the 1950s-1960s. Among the pictures' subjects are people from the world of cinema, television, culture, arts and politics, as well as places and artwork reproductions.
The Archive’s founder, Federico Arborio Mella (1920-1985), was a man of great knowledge and learning and the author of several books on ancient civilizations (L’Egitto dei Faraoni, Gli arabi e l’Islam, Dai Sumeri a Babele, L’impero persiano and Il Messico, all published by Mursia). He started collecting material for the iconographic part of the Dictionary of Literary Works and Characters published by Bompiani. The Picture Archive started increasingly to grow and grow, as Arborio Mella pursued the researches required to complete the Dictionary’s illustrations. And even after the Dictionary came out, he continued collecting photographs, until his archive became, in 1953, the Studio dell’Illustrazione, Italy’s first photo agency. Arborio Mella and his wife, Franca (Frichi) Calcaterra, a journalist and writer herself, were friends of some of the most prominent figures in the world of the arts – including Eugenio Montale, Franco Contini, Franca Valeri, Erich Linder, Vittorio Sereni. They also discovered and encouraged several photographers, such as Mario De Biasi – who, while still very young, was introduced by the Mellas to “Epoca”, the most important weekly report magazine in Italy at the time –, L. Veronesi, A.Villani and others.
After Arborio Mella’s death in 1985, and his wife’s in 2008, the Archive has been managed by their daughter Giulia, an editor specialized in English and American literature at Adelphi in Milan, and by the Archive’s curator Grazia Ippolito.
Federico Arborio Mella in his Studio.
Grazia Ippolito, the Archive's curator.
Website's graphic design by Sofia Simonetti
Federico and Frichi Arborio Mella.