Vittorio Sella

The archive preserves the papers and photographic work of Vittorio Sella (1859-1943). The collections are organised in the following series: Mountaineering, which documents his expeditions and contains his correspondence with various mountaineers and Alpine Clubs; the Patrimonial Papers series is relative both to his agricultural business – in particular the cultivation of vines in the Bramaterra area and the “Sella & Mosca” winery, founded in Sardinia in 1902 with his brother Erminio and cousin Edgardo Mosca – and to the “Gaudenzio Sella & C.” bank of which he was co-founder; the Diplomas, honours and acknowledgements series contains the many tributes he received between 1883 and 1937; the Photographic series, which includes a chronological list of the printed catalogues of his photographs from 1881 to 1909 and other papers connected with his work as a photographer. The Special series preserves his correspondence from 1890 to 1933 with Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of the Abruzzi, and with his wife Linda Mosca Riatel; other series are entitled Correspondence, Personal papers, Letter books, Various.

He acquired his passion for photography from his father Giuseppe Venanzio’s interest in the subject and his love of mountaineering from his uncle Quintino. During his winter mountaineering exploits, first with his brothers and cousins, later by himself, he achieved several remarkable ascents, reports of which are published in the Bulletins of the Italian Alpine Club (CAI). He opened up alpine exploration of the Caucasus with three successive expeditions (1889, 1890, 1896) and brought back substantial photographic documentation. He accompanied Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of the Abruzzi, on his most important mountaineering expeditions: Mount Saint Elia in Alaska (1897), Ruwenzori in Africa (1906), Karakorum in the Himalayas (1909), after having participated in 1899 with his brother Erminio in an expedition led by Douglas Freshfield in the same region.

Besides the documentary patrimony, the archive preserves Vittorio Sella’s photographic corpus. This consists of 10,000 negatives and about 12,000 prints organised in several series. These include pictures connected with photographic projects produced by other photographers who were friends of his and with whom he would exchange photographs. Worthy of note among the photos taken by other photographers are those of: Umberto  Balestrieri, documenting the reconnaisance trip to Karakorum in 1928 and the 1929 expedition led by Aimone of Savoy, Duke of Spoleto; Jules Beck, concerning a reconnaissance trip to Etna and the Alps; Elizabeth Burnaby Main Le Brun  which documents the mountain valleys of Switzerland, in particular those of the Upper Engardine; International Competition of Alpine Winter Photography, organised in Biella by the Italian Touring Club and by the Biella section of the CAI which preserves the material sent in by the participants (including Arlaud, Allegra, Franco Bogge, Luigi Borsetti, Capitani, Cibrario, De Cessole, Adolfo Hess and many others). The Mör Von Déchy series describes his travels in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Carpathians; the Emilio Gallo series documents the Alps; the Mario Piacenza series is on the subject of the first ascent of the Matterhorn by the Furggen crest, his trip to Persia in 1910 and the first ascent of a 7,000, the Nun Kun in 1913; the Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of the Abruzzi series documents exploratory trips to the North Pole in 1899 and in 1900 and the expedition to Somalia (Uebi-Scebeli) in 1928-1929; finally the Cesare Sella, son of Vittorio series documents events and landscapes of the First World War along the Friuli front.

Documentary archive 

Chronological details:  1882 – 1953

Contents: 77 bundles, 10 boxes

Photographic archive

Chronological details:  1860 – 1960

Contents: 31200 negatives and original prints

Biographical information:  Vittorio Sella