The Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome, successor to the institution founded by Henriette Hertz (1846–1913), was inaugurated in 1913 as an institute of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (since 1948 Max Planck Society) for the study of Italian art of the post-classical period in Rome. In its early years the institute attracted scholarly interest with the publication of monographs on great masters of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque, for example Michelangelo and Bernini, and the publication of collections of source material on Roman art. By the time the institute reopened after the Second World War (1953), that initial focus had decisively shifted in favour of architectural history. It was not until the introduction of the double directorship in 1977 that the visual arts were restored to their erstwhile prominent position.

Still, research at the institute is not confined to particular disciplines or periods, but encompasses the entirety of art produced in Rome and central and southern Italy and its impact on European art history. Roman art owes its status to no small degree to the permanent, inescapable confrontation with the art of classical antiquity in all its manifestations. Another key area of research at the institute is the artistic exchange between Italy and Europe. 

In addition to the projects and research pursued by the academic members, important research is also carried out by the members of staff who are in charge of the library, the photographic collection and publications as well as by assistants, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows who join the institute for a period of time ranging from two to four years. Annual excursions, seminars (often on-site), regular workshops and monthly lectures on current research-relevant topics, summer schools and introductory courses on the use of Roman archives for younger colleagues from German-speaking countries as well as numerous symposia and conferences provide opportunities for academic exchange and discussion between the members of the institute and their guests.

Many of the institute’s projects encompass not only multiple artistic disciplines, they are also interdisciplinary in approach. This is particularly evident in the conferences and exhibitions organised in cooperation with other institutions in Rome or further afield. Among the Hertziana’s most important partners are the Vatican Museums, the German Archaeological Institute, the German Historical Institute, the Historical Institute at the Austrian Cultural Institute in Rome, the Royal Netherlands Institute Rome, the Académie de France (Villa Medici), the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio storico-artistico ed etnoantropologico e per il Polo museale della Città di Roma, the Kunsthistorische Institut, Max-Planck-Institut in Florence, as well as the Warburg Institute in London and the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich and the Deutsche Forum für Kunstgeschichte, Paris.