Giuseppe Venanzio Sella 

Ritratto, 1873











Date of birth: 10-07-1823

Died: 31-05-1876

Place of birth: Sella di Mosso

Died: Biella, San Gerolamo


Son of Maurizio and Rosa Sella, Giuseppe Venanzio Sella was born in Sella di Mosso on 10 July 1823.

After completing a philosophy course at the Royal College he continued his studies in Turin where he attended both business school and chemistry lessons. In 1850, thanks to his chemistry studies, he presented to the Royal Academy of Sciences of Turin the Metodo comparativo per determinare gli acidi, gli alcali, i sali e i corpi semplici nelle loro soluzioni.  (Comparative method to determine acids, alkalis salts and simple bodies in their solutions ) which was published the following year under the title Polimetria chimica. Later he moved to Paris where he attended a course of chemistry taught by Professor Chevreul in order to widen his knowledge of the subject.

At the same time he developed an interest in the new photographic technologies and in 1848 he began to experiment with these early techniques; he frequented the bohemian worlds of photographers, where he met Plaut and the fine engraver and daguerrotype photographer   Frederich von Martens, to whom Giuseppe Venanzio dedicated in 1856 the first treatise on photography in Italy, the Plico del fotografo, ovvero l’arte pratica e teorica di disegnare uomini e cose su vetro, carta, metallo, ecc. col mezzo della luce, (Booklet of photography, or the practical and theoretical art of drawing men and objects on glass, paper, metal, etc. using light) which was translated the following year into French in the Encyclopedia Roret with notes by De Valincourt and republished in a second edition in 1863.
While he was studying art and photography he produced his first pictures, using different techniques and displaying a considerable talent for experimentation. From the early Fifties to the end of the Sixties, Giuseppe Venanzio produced a dozen or so pictures experimenting on paper and on laminate (daguerrotypes, calotypes, albumin, collodion) where he depicted the landscapes and people he was familiar with, such as his brother Quintino, Minister of Finance of the Kingdom of Italy. Some of his urban landscapes are also famous, for example Saint Vincent de Paul in Paris, Piazza San Carlo and Piazza Castello in Turin and, also in the Piedmont capital, the Tempio Valdese and the Valentino Park.

In 1862 he attended the Universal Exhibition of London and published Notizie sulla industria laniera, (Wool Industry News) a report in which he highlighted the deficiencies in this sector of the industry and the economy of the day and emphasized the need for better education for workers, essential in order to strengthen the industry. His competence in the field of industry was acknowledged by the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Trade which appointed him member of the jury for Italy at the Vienna Exhibition in 1873. He published Note sopra l’industria della lana in occasione dell’Esposizione di Vienna, (Notes on the wool industry on the occasion of the Vienna Exhibition) which was translated into French (1875) and German (1876).

From 1865 he was town councillor of Biella and in this role he promoted initiatives for the education of young people. To this end, he published Burschenschaft ossia la vita degli studenti in Germania che si propone per modello agli studenti italiani; (Burschenschaft or the life of students in Germany proposed as a model for Italian students); he also assisted with the foundation of the Professional School of Biella by his brother Quintino in 1869 for the training of workers in local industry.

In 1869 he was one of the founders of the Banca Biellese of which he was the first chairman.
In 1851 he married Clementina Mosca Riatel. One of his sons, Carlo, continued to manage the wool mill while Vittorio devoted himself to mountain photography. With his brother Erminio, also a photographer, and his brother-in-law Edgardo Mosca, he started an important farming business in Sardinia, while Gaudenzio was the founder of the Banca Sella.