photographic fonds

The photographic patrimony of Fondazione Sella, non-profit organisation, preserves pictures relating to local history, mountains and much more. The collections and the photographic series listed below and kept at the Sella Foundation number over a hundred, some of which have been in the family’s possession since the second half of the 1800’s.

The principal collections are those of Vittorio Sella, his brother Erminio, Giuseppe Venanzio, Venanzio, Cesare Sella, the Rossetti Photographic Studio, consisting of over 500,000 plates, and those of Vittorio Besso, who was the first to open a photographic studio in Biella in 1859. Of particular interest is the Ferrari collection with its 30,000 photographs, all on the subject of the alpine ranges from the Marittime to the Julian Alps. Also preserved, although not belonging to the collections or photographic series, are pictures by George and Ashley Abraham, Felice Arrigo, captain and cartographer Felice Boffa Ballaran, Franco Bogge, Filippo De Filippi, William Frederick Donkin, Mario Fantin, Douglas William Freshfield, Wiléem 

Heckel, E. S. Kennedy, Giuseppe Merisio, Gottfried Merzbacher, Cesare Nebbia, Neer (Celesia), Francesco Negri, Giorgio Sommer, Georges father and son Tairraz and Manfredo Vanni. There are also other series connected with the various branches of the Sella family and members of related families, as well as pictures on other subjects by anonymous authors (Biella, the Biellese, mountains, industry, etc.). One series consists of about a thousand pictures of soldiers and military manoevres dating back to to the period between 1910 and 1930. The Foundation also preserves photographic equipment, an ancient dark room with a solar enlarger, papers (letters, diaries and documents) and related literature.

Association of the Italian Wool Industry

This photographic series consists of pictures collected by the Association during its existence (1876-1993). Of particular interest is the documentation regarding certain factories and textile companies and the Textile Exhibition held in Biella in 1936.

Balestreri Umberto

The collection of pictures by Umberto Balestreri document the reconnaissance trip to Karakorum in 1928 and the stages of the expedition to K2 in 1929, led by Aimone of Savoy, Duke of Spoleto, recording the failed attempt to conquer the second highest summit in the world. There are over 640 pictures altogether.

Beck Jules

The photographs by Jules Beck number over 500, documenting in particular the Italian mountains (Alps, Apennines and Etna) and the mountain ranges of Northern and Central Europe.

Bertoglio Giovanni

Giovanni Bertoglio, in his role as editor of the monthly magazine “Rivista Mensile” of the C.A.I., collected numerous pictures by various photographers which are organised according to geographical region and mountain range.

Besso Vittorio

The collection preserves about seven hundred pictures taken by Vittorio Besso (1828-1895) illustrating the recently united Italian territory, first with photos taken in the areas of the former Kingdomof Savoy, Piedmont and Aosta Valley, later with landscapes of Lombardy, Tuscany and Lazio.


The photos taken by Ester Ravelli Bickley and by her daughter Olga, illustrate nearly a century of family life and travels. Subjects include Biella, Vercelli, Cornigliano, Alassio, Genoa, Latte, Rome, Venice, Tuscany, Northern Europe, England, Greece, Libya, Constantinople, Asia and New Zealand. Of particular interest are the pictures documenting the activities of the Ansaldo Workshops of Genoa.

Biellesi nel mondo

The collection includes the pictures found and acquired by researchers and coordinated by V. Castronovo as part of the “Biellesi nel mondo” project promoted by the Gruppo Banca Sella begun in the 1980’s.

Borsetti Luigi

The Sella Foundation preserves about forty plates, in particular of the Alps of the Biellese and the Aosta Valley and groups of climbers, as well as the photographs submitted to the winter mountain photography competition organised in Biella by the T.C.I. in collaboration with the Biella section of the C.A.I., where Luigi Borsetti was awarded a prize.

Cassin Riccardo

Over 300 pictures taken by Riccardo Cassin document the reconnaissance expedition to K2 in 1953, the year before the conquest of the summit by the Italian expedition under the leadership of Ardito Desio.

Corti Alfredo

The pictures were taken by Alfredo Corti for the magazines of the Italian Alpine Club and document in particular the Dolomites, the Bernina, Disgrazia, Adamello and the Gran Paradiso.

De Déchy Mor (Maurice)

Over one hundred pictures by Mor (Maurice) de Déchy preserved at the Sella Foundation chiefly document the valleys and indigenous populations of Bosnia-Herzegovina, while about thirty were taken in the Alps and in the Caucasus.

Eckenstein Oskar

The entire photographic corpus, consisting of 200 pictures on stereoscopic plates, fully documents the reconnaissance trip to K2 in 1902, as well as a visit to Vittorio Sella’s house in Biella. The photographs were taken by the Swiss doctor Jules Jacot Guillarmond (1868-1925).

Expedition to K2 -1954

The archive contains the photographic records compiled by some of the mountaineers who took part in the victorious expedition to K2 in 1954. The authors of the pictures are Ugo Angelino,Cirillo Floreanini, Guido Pagani, Gino Soldà and Sergio Viotto (the largest group).

Expedition to PERU-1963

An expedition was organised by the Town Council of Biella to the mountains of the Peruvian Andes in 1963 with the aim of studying the geology of the Andes. The mountaineers and authors of the pictures were: Giancarlo Bortolami, Giuseppe Calogero, Carlo Pivano, Fulvio Ratto, Franco Riva and Bruno Taiana.

Ferrari Agostino

The Ferrari collection consists of almost 40,000 pictures collected during the life of the Turinese doctor Agostino Ferrari, a leading member of the Italian Alpine Club, promoter and founder of the ‘Italian Group of Mountain Writers’.

Ferrarotti Sergio

Sergio Ferrarotti specialised in black and white landscapes and portraits and experimented with reworking and recomposing his pictures using photomontage and collages. His “puppet theatre” series is famous.

Gallino Giuseppe

An amateur photographer active in the first half of the 1900’s, Giuseppe Gallino is particularly important for his production of over two hundred colour photos taken after 1911, when Auguste Lumière came to Turin to illustrate a new technique and consequently to sell the autochrome plates produced by his firm.

Gallo Emilio

Textile industrialist, explorer and mountaineer, Emilio Gallo was a keen amateur photographer. He created his album Album del Biellese in 1891 and shortly afterwards began to take part in photographic exhibitions in Turin, in 1893 and 1900, Groningen, 1893, Hamburg and Berlin, 1895, where he won an award.

Maggia Federico

The photographic material of Federico Maggia is a large and heterogenous collection. The Sella Foundation preserves all the equipment and cameras used by Maggia. The phototypes are of two different kinds: the plates created in his early period of photographic activity (1912-1932) and the films, prints and contact prints of the later period (1961-1985).

Minoli Pietro

Besides working as a journalist, Pietro Minoli produced thousands of photographs fom the mid-1950’s onwards. As well as these pictures, the Sella Foundation conserves the lenses, cameras and the enlarger used by Pietro Minoli during his career.

Piacenza Mario

The Sella Foundation conserves all Mario Piacenza’s films but there are only a few prints of the period, most of which were made by Vittorio Sella and are conserved today at the Museum of the Mountains in Turin.

Rey Guido

Guido Rey is one of the main exponents of Italian pictorial photography, both in terms of style and as a source of inspiration. Rey’s scenarios depicted the ancient world or famous works from the past.

Rossetti Studio

Almost 500,000 plates produced by three generations of the Rossetti family (the father Simone, sons Alfredo and Oreste, niece Rosalba) portray life in Biella and the Biellese over a century, from 1880 to 1980.

Savoia, Luigi Amedeo di

The photographs which document the expeditions organised and led by Luigi Amedeo di Savoia, Duke of the Abruzzi, to Alaska, Ruwenzori and Karakorum are conserved in the Vittorio Sella archives.

Sella Cesare

Author of a visually impressive series of documentary photographs of the First World War, in which he served with his brother Giuseppe and cousin Ugo, Cesare Sella also illustrated the traditions and landscapes of Sardinia where he managed the “Sella and Mosca” winery.

Sella Erminio

The photographic series by Erminio Sella (1865-1948) consisting of about 3,200 phototypes (negatives and original prints) documents travels to the United States (1898), India and Sri Lanka (1899) and Central America (1902, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela).

Sella Gaudenzio

Between 1904 and 1922 Gaudenzio Sella produced over 1,000 photographs, mainly of Biella and the Biellese but also of travels in Italy and Europe.

Sella Giuseppe Venanzio

The archive contains about 50 photographs (negatives and positives) produced  using various techniques by Gaudenzio Venanzio Sella (1823-1876), one of the first Biellese photographers and the first in Italy to write in 1856 a theoretical and practical treatise on photography

Sella Ugo

A cousin of Vittorio and Erminio Sella, Ugo Sella shared with them a passion for the mountains and photography.

Sella Venanzio

Venanzio Sella took many photographs of the Biellese and of his travels. His name is especially linked with his trip to China and Japan in 1925-1926 from which he brought back an impressive series of photographs and a film which  was shown to the public several times.

Sella Vittorio

The photographic series of the Vittorio Sella archive is a collection of pictures taken by the celebrated mountaineer and mountain photographer between 1879 and the end of the 1930’s.

Tosso Antonio

A keen mountaineer, he was a member of the Italian Alpine Club and an amateur photographer. Antonio Tosso produced hundreds of pictures of the Biellese especially in the surroundings of Oropa where from 1931 to 1950 he managed the café and cake shop “Colombino”, now the Caffè Deiro. Previously he had been employed at Boglietti Knitwear.

Tournon Adriano

Engineer and public figure, Adriano Tournon joined the Subalpine Photography Society as a young man. In 1907 he was one of the organisers and judges at the  International Exhibition of Turin and in 1909 he published two articles in “Artistic Photography”.

Vallino Domenico

Partly on account of his role as first chairman of the Biella section of C.A.I Domenico Vallino became a great friend of Vittorio Sella with whom he published a book entitled: “Monte Rosa and Gressoney” in 1890.

Varale Giovanni

A keen mountaineer and Biellese photographer, his pictures were published in various books and magazines and many were used as postcards.