The Acton Photograph Archive
Language of Materials
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.
As far as possible photos have generally been arranged chronologically within each subseries (or alphabetically by name).
The standard size prints have been housed in ring-binder albums or boxes (of two different sizes), and the oversize prints in oversize boxes. During processing the oversize prints have been integrated with the standard size ones (not as a separate series): in other words they have been considered as if standard size, but just shelved elsewhere. Ring-binder albums have been used for the most important photos (for ease of consultation) and the ones most likely to be used (Series I.A., I.B., and I.C. Series II.A., II.B., II.C., and II.D., and Series VII). Large (white) boxes have been used for the less important photos (Series I.E., III.A.B. and C.), and for Series V.and VI. Small (grey) boxes (lighter to handle) have been used for Series IV. The images on glass have been processed separately in Series VIII, IX, and X, and housed in smaller boxes of four different sizes. Within each of the first seven Series the numbering of the ring-binder albums and/or boxes for the standard size prints is consecutive, regardless of the type of container, and the numerical sequence always begins again at number 1 for the first container at the start of each of the ten Series. The oversize prints are arranged in various sizes of flat (grey) boxes following the numerical order of the Series (and the numbers of the standard size) but each folder is also given a consecutive oversize number from 1.-367. The oversize boxes are not numbered but the numbers of the folders within them is indicated on the outside label.
The images on glass have been protected by grey cardboard dividers and each group separated by numbered yellow cardboard dividers which, for the sake of consistency, have been called 'folders' (this is also the case for the glass negatives housed in envelopes).
The photos in boxes are labelled as follows: Series no.; Subseries no.; Box no; Folder no; Photo no. within folder. The photos in albums are labelled as follows: Series no.; Subseries no.; album no.; photo no.
The photos in oversize carry an extra number to those in albums as they also have their oversize folder number.
In each album photos are numbered consecutively to the end of that album, whereas in the boxes the folders are numbered consecutively, and the photos are then numbered consecutively only within each folder.
Since the oversize prints have been considered as if standard size, they are numbered consecutively, so there are gaps in the numbering in the ring-binder albums which indicate that these are oversize, shelved elsewhere. But this is not the case in the standard size boxes, where the folders are numbered consecutively and there are no gaps in the numbering for oversize images (so that in the Finding Aid there are items which only carry an Oversize archival number and not a box and folder number).
Positives have been numbered only on their mylar sleeves, not on the photographs themselves.
Where the number of a photograph is followed by a letter of the alphabet this usually has no special significance: it merely indicates that that print was found late, or moved from another Series during processing.
Duplicates: one copy or significant copies of prints have been organized in the albums: duplicate copies have been placed in boxes in the same sequence shelved at the end of the albums. Duplicates have not been extracted from the Series housed in boxes.
Explanatory notes on the Finding Aid
The four members of the Acton family are referred to throughout as AA (Arthur Acton), HMA (Hortense Acton née Mitchell), HA (Harold Acton), and WA (William Acton).
All prints are black and white unless otherwise indicated.
Places mentioned without specifying the country are in Italy.
The name of the photographer has been noted where known.
When a photograph bears a date this has been recorded, but in many cases the processor has estimated dates based on knowledge of the collection and of the Acton family. These dates are subject to revision as additional research is carried out on the Archive.
Annotations on the verso have usually been transcribed when legible.
Generally speaking, greater detail has been given in the description of photographs housed in the (modern) ring-binder albums, as they are usually the most important part of the collection. The historic albums, often with photographs pasted onto the page, have been given a compressed description in the Finding Aid (but a more detailed description has been kept with each album).
The photographs in boxes are normally described only down to folder level (and it has not usually been specified how many photos each folder contains).
In every series when a print has been taken in the gardens of Villa La Pietra or in the interior of Villa La Pietra this has also been indicated.
If a print is oversize this has always been indicated at the end of its description.
Negatives (Neg., Negs): where possible these have been processed together with their print (if found), and the negative usually precedes the print.
Square brackets have been used by the processor to indicate uncertain information.
The Conti inventory in Italian, drawn up in December 1995 by Giovanni Conti, has been used in the numbering and names of the rooms in the interior of Villa La Pietra. This inventory has also been used in the numbering and description of the works of art in the interior of Villa La Pietra, without taking into account that since 1995 it has frequently been subject to revision as regards dates and attributions. The information from the Conti inventory appears in italics in the Finding Aid wherever possible.
The sub-sections of the gardens of Villa La Pietra established by New York University prior to their restoration have been followed in the arrangement of the photographs. The statues in the gardens of Villa La Pietra have been identified only by their inventory number supplied by New York University.
Scope and Contents
Note: for the arrangement in albums or boxes, see below in 'Arrangement'. The four members of the Acton family are abbreviated as follows: AA (Arthur Acton), HMA (Hortense Mitchell Acton), HA (Harold Acton) and WA (William Acton).
The collection is arranged into 10 series (and numerous subseries):
Series I: The Actons
Series II: Villa La Pietra
Series III: Family Albums and Scrapbooks
Series IV: Works of Art
Series V: Places
Series VI: Postcards
Series VII: Harold Acton in China and the Far East
Series VIII: Images on glass
Series IX: Glass negatives (10 x 15 cm and over)
Series X: Reali glass negatives
Series I: THE ACTONS
A. Acton, Arthur (I.A.1.-I.A.6.)
Includes prints dating from the early 1900s, some of them cabinet card photographs and studio portraits, also of AA in his apartment and studios in New York and Firenze. There are very early prints of AA in the grounds of Villa La Pietra before the gardens were laid out, and others taken over the years of him alone or with friends in the gardens (and a few of him in the interior of Villa La Pietra). The series showing him with others or of his friends include some taken at Florentine villas, and there are others of vintage cars.
1. alone: Includes prints with WA. There are also a few prints without AA of the interiors of his apartments in Firenze, kept here so as not to separate them from the prints taken at the same time showing him in the same place. Also here are a few prints of AA painting, kept here for the same reason (rather than filed in I.A.6.).
2. with Hortense Acton, née Mitchell: For other photographs of AA with the family, see under Harold Acton (I.C.1.-I.C.5).
3. with others: Includes a few prints of AA with WA. There are a few prints here which may not include AA himself, and there may be some small overlap with I.A.4.
4. friends of Arthur and Hortense Acton: Some of the friends here were also painted by AA so may also appear in I.A.6.
5. his relations: Prints of his father Roger Acton in Cairo include some views of Cairo without him, kept here as obviously taken at the same time. For the album of AA's ancestors, see III. A.10.
6. his painting activity: Includes interiors of his studios in New York at the end of the 19th century, and Firenze (early 20th century) as well as portraits of sitters and models posing.
B. Acton, Hortense née Mitchell (I.B.1.-I.B.4.)
Many early cabinet card photos (mostly by Steffens of Chicago) show HMA as a young girl (the earliest one of her alone is securely dated 1891).There are many prints of HMA's early life in the US on family outings and trips with friends, and her Chicago girlhood friends are recorded in numerous fine cabinet card photos. There are a great many oversize prints in this series. There are early prints of HMA in the grounds and gardens of Villa La Pietra.
1. alone: Includes some early (late 19th century) prints of uncertain identification (perhaps sisters or friends of HMA rather than HMA herself).
2. with others: For HMA with AA, see I.A.2., and for HMA with HA (and the family) see I.C.1.-.7. The prints of a trip to the Missions in SW America ca. 1890s includes many prints of buildings and landscapes with no people, kept here since they are part of the same series taken at the same time.
3. her Chicago girlhood friends: Mostly identified as taken by photographers at the end of the 19th century.
4. her relations (the Mitchell family): For her cousin Louise Gaylord's wedding to Walter Dillingham at Villa La Pietra, with HA and WA as pages, see I.C.1. For her brother Guy Mitchell's Villa Passerini, Firenze, see V.A.1., and for the Dillingham's Villa La Pietra in Honolulu, see V.B.4.
C. Acton, Harold (I.C.1.-I.C.16)
Prints of HA arranged by decade include those with his family. Lots of these were taken in the gardens or the interior of Villa La Pietra, but also in the US and elsewhere in the world, including China in the 1930s. Those with guests at Villa La Pietra include numerous Color prints of the 1970s and 1980s of unidentified visitors. Those showing HA at formal ceremonies are nearly all in Italy.
1. 1900s (alone or with one or more members of his family - AA, HMA, and WA)
2. 1910s (alone or with one or more members of his family - AA, HMA, and WA)
Includes prints of HA in the Dillingham wedding at Villa La Pietra (but see also I.C.13.)
3. 1920s (alone or with one or more members of his family - AA, HMA, and WA)
4. 1930s (alone or with one or more members of his family - AA, HMA, and WA)
See also series VII.
5. 1940s (alone or with one or more members of his family - AA, HMA)
6. 1950s (alone or with HMA)
7. 1960s (alone or with HMA)
8. 1970s (alone)
9. 1980s (alone)
10. 1990s (alone)
11. portraits of
12. with others (not at Villa La Pietra)
13. with guests (at Villa La Pietra)
14. at formal ceremonies
15. friends of: Arranged alphabetically rather than chronologically as in the other subseries (unidentified friends are in Series I.E., including Eton or university friends in I.E.9.). In a few instances there may be some overlap here with I.A.4. (such as Cora Antinori). For HA's friends in China see VII.B.1. and VII.B.2.
16. his funeral
D. Acton, William (I.D.1.-I.D.3.)
Prints of William alone, and with others, some at parties: but those with HA or his parents are filed under the other member of the family.
1. alone (and portraits of): For WA with AA, HMA, and/or HA, see I.A.1., I.B.1., and 1.C.1.-I.C.4.
2. with others
3. his painting activity: Includes an album scrapbook of an exhibition in London. Portraits of identified sitters have been filed alphabetically. For some painted panels by William Acton, see also IV.A.2.
E. Unidentified (I.E.1.-I.E.13.)
These are prints mostly of unidentified Acton family friends or relations, ordered as far as possible by date within the sub-series. The dogs include the Acton family pet dogs often photographed in the gardens of Villa La Pietra. The last two sub-series have been added here as they fit even less well elsewhere in the collection.
Includes women with babies and children.
3. men and women
Includes groups at Villa La Pietra, but without a member of the Acton family.
7. soldiers: For other prints of soldiers see I.E.8.
8. officers in Italy in the First World War at Villa La Pietra and elsewhere in Tuscany
9. Eton or university friends of HA
10. supposed Acton relations
11. supposed Mitchell relations and Chicago girlhood friends of HA
13. photographers' portfolios
Series II: VILLA LA PIETRA
A. The Gardens (II.A.1.-II.A.10.)
(Album 1-10 and Box 11)
The prints of the gardens have been filed by area (always indicated by where the photographer was standing), following the sub-sections of the gardens established by New York University prior to their restoration. The prints have been arranged as far as possible chronologically (although there are many instances in which the date is uncertain). This rule has in a few instances been over-ridden (for example in the Teatrino and Boschetto, Vista dell'Arco) where similar views of areas of the gardens (i.e. 'looking south' or 'looking north') have been filed together. Prints of the statuary have been filed together at the end of each sub-section, and numbered according to the inventory established by New York University prior to restoration on the gardens. Series II.A.10.ii. is a ring-binder with photos of statues in the gardens taken by Anna Marx (1986), duplicates of prints filed in II.A.1-II.A.7. but here given a different inventory number since they are filed separately. For other early prints of the gardens (including some prints of the gardens under construction in the first years of the 20th century), see also I.A.1., I.A.3., I.A.4., III.A.1., III.A.2., III.A.6., and III.B.1. There are numerous Brogi prints commissioned by the Actons in 1927, and others dating from the 1930s.
2. Piazzale: i Corte, ii Parcheggio
3. Vasche: i Terrazza, ii Prima Vasca, iii Scalone, iv Seconda Vasca, v Peristilio della glicine
4. Tempietto and Teatrino: i Tempietto, ii Teatrino
5. Boschetto: i Vista dell'Arco, ii Vista del Duomo, iii Prato ovale, iv Vista del Colosso, v Vialone, vi Pergola delle Rose
6. Giardino Topiario: i Giardino Segreto, ii Vasca di Diana, iii Prato del Cedro
8. the park before the construction of the gardens
9. the garden statuary, vases, and masques, before their present installation in the gardens
10. Albums of Garden Photos: i. Album 1930s, ii. Garden statues taken by Anna Marx in 1986, iii. Album of photos by Frederic Faust 1930s, iv. Album given to Harold Acton, July 1974, v. Album of Garden photos (gift of Alexander Zielcke)
B. The Interior and The Collection (II.B.1.-II.E.)
1. the rooms with their contents
General views of each room, followed by prints of the contents, object by object. The rooms are numbered and named, following the Conti inventory in Italian, drawn up in December 1995 by Giovanni Conti. This inventory has also been used in the numbering and description of the works of art in each room, without taking into account that since 1995 the inventory has frequently been subject to revision as regards dates and attributions. The information from the Conti inventory appears where possible in italics in the Finding Aid.
2. works of art from the Collection in previous displays
See also II.D. There may be some small overlap with II.B.1.
3. works which were formerly part of the Collection, but whereabouts at present unknown
Arranged by paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. Includes stolen works, and may include works formerly in villas on the estate (but see also II.C).
4. collection related works of art
These are works of art very similar to those in the Villa La Pietra Collection (and they have been cross-referenced by the processor to the relevant object in II.B.1.). Arranged by interiors, paintings, and sculpture. For some other objects which may be related to works in the Collection, see IV.A.
5. Historic Albums mostly of the interior and works of art at present in the Collection or probably formerly once belonging to it
These consist of: 12 brown canvas-bound albums, mostly with the photographs pasted on to the page, and bearing their original numbers 1-3 and I-IX on the spine; 2 oversize green canvas albums un-numbered on the spine, containing photos numbered with Reali negative numbers 1-98 and 99-200; 1 oversize album, containing Color prints of the interior of Villa La Pietra in carbochrome, 1973.
The 12 brown canvas-bound albums contain prints mostly of the interior of Villa La Pietra and works of art at present in the Collection or probably formerly once belonging to it, but also contain photographs of works of art no longer in the collection, works of art now in Villas on the estate, a few of the Villa La Pietra gardens and statues, and others of works of art illustrating the Actons' activity as collectors.
The two oversize green canvas albums contain photos taken by Reali probably between 1958 and 1964 (and their numbers correspond to the glass negatives of these prints also preserved in Series X).
The pages of the albums have been numbered in pencil by the processor in square brackets to correspond with the detailed description of each album provided on a print-out kept together with the album (and included in the Finding Aid).
The original numbering of the pages and/or photographs in the albums is usually not consecutive but has always also been recorded, and some of these appear to refer to similar numbers on Brogi photographs. Some pages are blank and some photographs are missing.
Many of the photographs were found to be duplicates of those already in the Archive, and so this was noted in the album description, giving the archive number of the duplicate print. 'Duplicates' have been differentiated from 'Near duplicates' - the difference being that a 'near duplicate' is a print from the same negative but cropped slightly differently or printed with a different exposure.
In the albums where the photographs were not pasted on to the page, a few of these were removed and replaced at an unknown time by photocopies, but the great majority of these were removed to the Archive in 2004 (noting on the original the provenance and Historic Album number) and replaced here with Color photocopies of the recto and verso.
The two oversize green canvas albums have photos by Reali not pasted on to the page but the originals have been left here. They are annotated by HA and numbered by him. Again the duplicates and near duplicates have been noted.
6. Interiors taken by Anna Marx, 1986
These are mostly general views of rooms of Villa La Pietra, rather than individual works of art: however when an art object can be seen clearly it has been given its Conti inventory number, which is part of the title proper in Italian (in this case not in italics). Anna Marx photographed most rooms in the Villa except for III, V, VIII, XXVII, XLIV, XLVI, and L. Instead she photographed XXVI (Bagno), and XLIV (Ufficio, called by her the "Stanza della Signora Malesci"), not documented photographically elsewhere in the Archive as well as the Corridoio (XLII) in greater detail than elsewhere in the Archive.
C. The Estate (II.C.1.-II.C.8.)
(Album 34-35, Box 36)
Here are views of the land (the podere) surrounding Villa La Pietra as well as views from and of Villa La Pietra. The images of the exterior and interior of the five villas on the property (Villa Emilia, Villa Natalia, Villa Colletta, Villa Sassetti, and Villa Ulivi) include works of art and historic albums of the villas.
1. The Podere
2. Villa Emilia
3. Villa Natalia
4. Villa Colletta
5. Villa Sassetti
6. Villa Ulivi
8. Albums of the villas
D. Other Acton properties (II.D.1.-II.D.3.)
Many of the art objects photographed in these properties were subsequently part of the Collection of Villa La Pietra. Palazzo Guadagni, Firenze has been included here, but only in order to cross-reference it to the photographs of Arthur Acton in his studio in Series I.A.6. Lungarno Guicciardini, Firenze: two of these three photos are identified on the verso as 'Lungarno Guicciardini', and so were processed here, but they appear, instead, to be interiors of Villa Sassetti. Lancaster Gate was a property owned by the Actons in 1928-32. Many of the photographs are annotated by Guy Mitchell, brother of HMA, who was frequently in London between 1928-32 and WA and HA were also presumably there during that period. In these photographs there is a small overlap with II.B.1.
1. Palazzo Guadagni, Firenze see I.A.6.
2. Lungarno Guicciardini, Firenze
3. Lancaster Gate, London
E. Black-and-white negatives (in sheets and rolls), with their prints made in 2005 (II.E.1.-II.E.4)
These have been kept together since the negatives are on sheets or rolls, which only became legible when a selection of them (eliminating duplicates and the negatives of very poor quality) were printed in 2005. The prints have been processed in the same order as the above subseries in Series II (and so not necessarily in the same order as the negative sheets). Some of these are of special interest as they are not included elsewhere in the Acton Photograph Archive.
1. 175 negatives
2. Villa La Pietra: the gardens
3. Villa La Pietra: the interior and the Collection
4. Villa La Pietra: the Estate
Series III: Family Albums and Scrapbooks
A. Family Albums (III.A.1.-III.A.10.)
(Box 1 and Album 2)
These are historic albums with photographs usually pasted onto the page. The pages of the albums have been numbered in pencil in square brackets by the processor to correspond with the detailed description of each album provided on a print-out kept together with the album (but not included in full in the Finding Aid).
4. 1915-1918: officers at La Pietra
7. 1927: Theatricals in the gardens of Villa La Pietra in June
8. 1965: Villa La Pietra estate, Honolulu
10. Arthur Acton's family ancestors
B. Baby Books (III.B.1.-III.B.2.)
These were compiled by HMA for HA and WA and are scrapbooks with annotations by HMA which also contain photographs. The pages of the albums have been numbered in pencil in square brackets by the processor to correspond with the detailed description of each album provided on a print-out kept together with the album (but not included in full in the Finding Aid).
1. Harold Acton
2. William Acton
C. Albums of Art works and places (III.C.1.-III.C.13.)
These historic albums with photographs pasted on to the pages consist of commercially produced prints of places and art works in Italy and the rest of Europe (some by famous photographers such as Carlo Naya of Venezia and Giorgio Sommer of Napoli and Alinari of Firenze). The prints of places include some of towns and monuments in Germany and France later destroyed in the War. The albums have only been described summarily since they are almost certainly not unique.
1. Veronese frescoes at Villa Maser, taken by C. Naya, 1873
2. 'Italia' circa 1870s
3. Album belonging to Hortense Mitchell, September 1888
4. Album belonging to Hortense Mitchell, September 1890
5. Album belonging to Marguerite Mitchell, 1891
6. Album belonging to Marguerite Mitchell, 1891
7. Album made in Chicago, 1892
8. Album made in Chicago ca. 1892
9. Album made in Chicago ca. 1892
10. Album belonging to Harold Acton, 1911
11. Album belonging to William Acton, 1912
12. Album (empty) of Guy Mitchell's Villa Passerini
13. Album (empty) of Villa La Pietra Gardens, around 1930
The following albums have been excluded from Series III and filed elsewhere: WA's exhibition in London in 1937 (in I.D.3.); Four albums with prints of the gardens of Villa La Pietra (in II.A.10); Guy Mitchell's Villa Passerini, Firenze (in V.A.1.); Albums of villas on Villa La Pietra estate (in II.C.); Albums of postcards (in VI.E.); Peking Opera, China (in VII.F.)
Series IV: Works of Art
A. This series is currently being processed and is unavailable for consultation.
B. Art objects (with locations) (IV.B.1.-IV.B.11.)
This series includes all works of art where the location is identified. They are filed by medium (in the same order as IV.A. above) and within that sub-series, topographically. These were presumably collected by the Actons for study purposes, and include many Alinari and Brogi prints. See also Series VI.B.
1. Paintings and drawings and prints
iii. USA and Canada
2. Painted decoration
iii. USA and Canada
5. Decorative sculpture and carving (mostly in interiors)
iii. USA and Canada
6. Garden statues
7. Garden or exterior decorative sculpture
8. Decorative arts
11. Works of art used as illustrations in HA's published works
C. Interiors (IV.C.1.-IV.C.4.)
D. Private Collections (IV.D.)
Filed alphabetically by owner. Includes both identified and unidentified art works. These include only those prints with annotations which identify them as works in private collections at the time of the Actons (although there must be numerous other art objects in IV.A.-IV.C. which have at one time or another been in private hands). In some cases the processor has noted the present location when known.
Series V: Places
A. Italian Villas and Gardens (V.A.1.-V.A.3.)
The prints are exteriors filed topographically, within each subseries, and alphabetically by province, then by place, then by villa. Places have been itemized mostly only down to folder level. In a few instances interiors are included here, when these are part of a particular series, see, for instance: Villa La Capponcina (Settignano), Villa Passerini (Firenze), Villa Narcissus (Capri) and Villa Maser (Treviso). For all other interiors, see IV.C.
Postcards have, as an exception, been included in V.A.1.- V.A.3. For other postcards of places, including Italian villas visited by HMA in 1908 etc., see series VI.A. and VI.D.1. For other prints of villas, see also I.A. and I.B. and E.8; and for garden statuary, see also IV.B.6. and IV.B.7.
1. Firenze and Toscana
B. Exteriors (V.B.1.-V.B.6.)
The exteriors in V.B.1 and V.B.2. obviously exclude villas and gardens (filed in V.A.1.-V.A.3). There is some small overlap between V.B.2. and V.A.2. For interiors, see IV.C. In V.B.6. there are several groups of interesting War photographs.
5. rest of the world
Series VI: Postcards and Postcard Albums
The postcards in the Archive are those without correspondence on the verso, but include some, in series VI.D. with annotations on the verso recording dates (and sometimes descriptions) of places visited. The postcards, filed topographically, are kept in folders and numbered only down to folder level. It was decided to dismantle postcard albums (where the postcards were not pasted to the page) when these included postcards with correspondence so that these could be transferred to the paper archives. The postcards without correspondence were then kept together in a folder as they had been in the album.
The postcards annotated by HA on the verso of places in the Far East have been kept in Series VII. It was decided to keep postcards of works of art and places separately and not file them in series IV and Series V, except in the case of Italian villas and gardens which have been filed in V.A.1. and V.A.2. Otherwise it was felt that it would be interesting to keep the postcards separate in this subseries as the possession of a postcard normally indicates that that place or work of art was visited or seen by a member of the Acton family. Therefore when looking for a picture of a place or work of art it may be useful to look at the postcard series also.
The albums in series VI.E. usually contain only postcards, although a few of these could be termed scrapbooks as they include other material. Some of these were partly dismantled since if they had correspondence on the verso it was decided to remove them to the paper archives. The albums have been given a compressed description in the Finding Aid (but a more detailed description has been kept with each postcard album).
A. Places (exteriors) (VI.A.1.-VI.A.5.)
5. rest of the world
B. Works of art (and interiors) (VI.B.1.-VI.B.5.)
5. rest of the world
C. Picture postcards (VI.C.)
Includes many War propaganda postcards.
D. Postcards documenting travels (VI.D.1.-VI.D.3.)
These are annotated on the verso with dates or descriptions by HMA and HA. Although many of those in VI.D.3. do not have annotations they appear to have been collected by Guy Mitchell during his travels in the Far East in the 1920s (although it is possible some of these were collected by HA in the 1930s).
1. Hortense Mitchell's travels
2. Harold Acton's travels
3. Guy Mitchell's travels in the Far East
E. Albums (VI.E.1.-VI.E.16.)
1. William Acton's Book of Travels, 1906-1918
2. Harold Acton's Book of Travels, 1906-1918
3. Art postcards (mostly France) which presumably belonged to Hortense Mitchell
4. Art postcards, almost all printed by Photo-Procede E. Druet, which presumably belonged to Hortense Mitchell [1911-1913]
5. Postcards of America which presumably belonged to Hortense Mitchell, 1911-1919
6. Art postcards (female portraits) which belonged to Harold Acton. 1911-1922
7. Art postcards from an album entitled 'Harold Acton Artistic Album' [1911-1913]
8. Art postcards (mostly Sienese and Florentine schools) which belonged to Harold Acton [1912-1913]
9. Album of postcards of Italy and art postcards which belonged to Harold Acton, [1912-1918]
10. Postcards of America which belonged to Harold Acton, begun 1914
11. Art postcards (male portraits including many self-portraits) which belonged to Harold Acton, 1914
12. Art postcards (Europe and America) which belonged to Harold Acton, ca. 1912-1914
13. Art postcards (mostly nudes) which belonged to Harold Acton, c 1913
14. Art postcards (Europe) which belonged to Harold Acton, after 1912
15. Art postcards (mostly Sienese school), which belonged to Harold Acton, ca. 1913-1925
16. Picture postcards, which belonged to Harold Acton -1913
Series VII: Harold Acton in China and the Far East (and the Peking Opera)
These are prints relative to HA's residence in China from 1932 to 1939. There is a notable section (VII.E.) with photos (and their negatives) of actors from the Peking Opera, by Ann Watkins of New York and Serge Vargassoff of Beijing most of them annotated by HA and some in Chinese. Many of these were taken in the porch of HA's residence in Beijing (2 Kung Hsien Hutung) between 1936 and 1939. Famous actors include Mei Lanfang (1894-1961).
For prints of HA in China alone or with others, see I.C.4. and I.C.12, and for portraits of HA in China or by Chinese artists, see I.C.11. There are some postcards in this series.
A. Harold Acton's residence in Beijing (VII.A.)
B. People (VII.B.1.-VII.B.2.)
C. Places (VII.C.1.-VII.C.2.)
1. Beijing and environs
2. China (excluding Beijing) and the Far East
D. Artwork (VII.D.)
E. The Peking Opera (VII.E.)
F. Album of photos of the Peking Opera (VII.F.)
Series VIII: Images on glass
The images on glass are always positives unless indicated as negatives. They are mostly 13 x 6 cm or 10.5 x 4.5 cm. (for larger glass negatives, see Series IX. and Series X.). Most of them are stereographs (which include positives and negatives, sometimes of the same image). These are often black-and-white and sometimes sepia toned. Those in Color are autochrome lumière positives.
Where they exist, negatives and positives have been filed together. The sub-series follow those in the collection not on glass.
Some of the stereographs are inserted into metal supports for use with the stereoscopes which are still preserved in working order as part of the Collection in Villa La Pietra.
Most of the stereographs and autochromes date from the first two decades of the 20th century, and many are of members of the Acton family (and their friends) at Villa La Pietra (usually taken in the gardens but also a few inside the villa), and also of the gardens of Villa La Pietra and other Italian villas and gardens (notably Villa Gamberaia, Settignano, and Villa Sciarra in Rome).
There are three daguerreotypes.
A. The Actons (VIII.A.1-VIII.A.5.)
1. Arthur Acton
ii. with others
iii. his relations
iv. his painting activity
2. Hortense Acton née Mitchell
i. alone (or with WA)
ii. with others
3. Harold Acton
Alone or with AA, HMA and/or WA
4. William Acton
5. Friends of the Actons (mostly unidentified)
iv. officers at Villa La Pietra (1916/17)
B. Villa La Pietra (VIII.B.1-VIII.B.3.)
1. The Gardens
iv. Tempietto and Teatrino
vi. Giardino Topiario
2. The interior and the Collection
See also Series IX and X
i. Rooms with their contents
ii. Unidentified (probably once part of the Collection, and whereabouts at present unknown)
3. The Estate (the Podere and other villas)
C. Works of Art (VIII.C.1-VIII.C.2.)
2. Interiors (and private collections)
D. Places (VIII.D.1-VIII.D.3.)
1. Italian villas and gardens (exteriors)
3. War photographs
Series IX: Glass negatives (10 x 15 cm and over)
This small series includes all the black-and-white negatives of various sizes (but all of them over 10 x 15 cm.) which are not in Series VIII or in Series X. The sub-series follow those in the collection not on glass. They include portraits of (Eugene Arthur) Roger Acton, father of Arthur Acton, and works of art in the Collection at Villa La Pietra, or probably once part of it. Prints of most of these exist in the Archive.
A. The Actons (IX.A.1.-IX.A-3.)
1. Acton, Eugene Arthur Roger (father of AA)
2. Portraits by William Acton
3. Unidentified friends of the Actons
B. Villa La Pietra (IX.B.1.-IX.B.3.)
1. The Gardens
i. Garden vases before their present installation in the gardens
2. Interior and the Collection
i. Rooms with their contents
ii. Unidentified (probably once part of the Collection, and whereabouts at present unknown)
3. the Estate
Series X: Reali Glass Negatives
This series contains a set of black-and-white glass negatives, 27 x 21 cm. of works of art in the Collection in Villa La Pietra (or formerly part of it), and a few interior views of rooms in the Villa. They were found in boxes accurately marked with their Reali negative numbers (sometimes also indicated on the glass plates themselves) – the first instance in the Archive where the material was pre-numbered. These numbers have therefore been included in the photograph number, preceding the Conti inventory number which indicates which work of art is represented in the Villa La Pietra Collection (i.e. Series X., Reali negative number 1., Conti inventory number XX. B.16., Box 1., folder 1., photo 1.). Prints of almost all of the negatives exist in Series II.B.1. or II.B.5 (and cross references to these have been provided by the processor). They were probably all taken at the same time between 1958 and 1964. They are in excellent condition, and many of them were touched up with pink (probably China) using a brush to make the contrast sharper.
Reali negative number 1.-10. (Box 1)
Reali negative number 11.-20. (Box 2)
Reali negative number 21.-30. (Box 3)
Reali negative number 31.-40. (Box 4)
Reali negative number 41.-50. (Box 5)
Reali negative number 51.-60. (Box 6)
Reali negative number 61.-70. (Box 7)
Reali negative number 71.-80. (Box 8)
Reali negative number 81.-90. (Box 9)
Reali negative number 91.-100. (Box 10)
Reali negative number 101.-110. (Box 11)
Reali negative number 111.-120. (Box 12)
Reali negative number 121.-130. (Box 13)
Reali negative number 131.-140. (Box 14)
Reali negative number 141.-150. (Box 15)
Reali negative number 151.-160. (Box 16)
Reali negative number 161.-170. (Box 17)
Reali negative number 171.-180. (Box 18)
Reali negative number 181.-190. (Box 19)
Reali negative number 191.-200. (Box 20)
Reali negative number 201.-210. (Box 21)
Reali negative number 211.-222. (Box 22)
Conditions Governing Access
Open for research without restrictions. Please note that some items may not be available for consultation at the discretion of NYU for conservation reasons.
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from:
Villa La Pietra
Via Bolognese, 120
50139 Firenze, Italia
Tel. +39 055 5007 225 email: email@example.com
Location of Materials
The visual material in this collection had been stored by the Acton family at random in various rooms of their residence, Villa la Pietra, Florence from around 1903 to the death of the last member of the family, Harold, in 1994. Some of it was mixed up with correspondence and other papers. Much of it lacked dating and identification. It was processed and given a Finding Aid in 2002-2005 by NYU with the help of a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation of New York.