Giorgio Castelfranco

(1896-1978)

*The Foundation wishes to express thanks to Caterina Zaru for his contribution to this biographical profile.

Giorgio Castelfranco, art historian and critic, was born in Venice in 1896. In 1914, he moved to Florence where, between the two World Wars, he lived in a house located in Lungarno Serristori with his wife Matilde Forti and their family. In 1921, he began a degree at the University of Florence. Between 1921 and 1924, the artist Giorgio De Chirico spent considerable periods of time in Castelfranco’s house where he created famous works of art, some of which were purchased by Castelfranco himself. In 1926, he was employed by the Italian Fine Arts Administration in Taranto; in 1927, he moved to Perugia, and he returned to Florence in 1929, as an inspector. In 1936, he became Director of the Palazzo Pitti Gallery where he succeeded, in 1938, in giving the Gallery a new layout.

In that same year, in anticipation of Adolph Hitler’s visit to Florence, Castelfranco, being a Jew, was forced out of his position and assigned to the Estense Gallery in Modena. He was fired in February 1939. In order for his family to emigrate to the Unites States for their own protection, , he was obliged to sell his art collection, including artworks like Le Muse Inquietanti and Ettore e Andromaca by De Chirico. After September 8, 1943, he succeeded in crossing the lines into Puglia, where he worked as a Fine Arts General Director of the Ministry of Education throughout the governments of Badoglio and Bonomi. When he moved to Rome in 1944, he was commissioned alongside Emilio Lavagnino by the Minister of Education, Guido De Ruggiero, to assist Allied officers during their reconnaissance tours of warehouses situated in the Tuscan countryside where works of art from the Florentine museums had been sheltered. In the autumn of 1946, he was called as a representative of the Ministry of Education to take part in an Italian mission to recover works of art in Germany, headed by Rodolfo Siviero. The result of this mission was the exhibition of recovered works of art in Germany, which was held in Rome at Villa Farnesina from November 10, 1947 to January 10, 1948, and personally supervised by Giorgio Castelfranco as a senior official of the Ministry. The collaboration with Siviero began in 1944, when Castelfranco opened his apartment on the Lungarno Serristori to agents and friends, and made it available for the storage of confidential documents.

During the 1950s, Giorgio Castelfranco was very active as a critic in the organization of contemporary art exhibitions for the Quadriennale d’arte in Rome. Between 1958 and 1964, he directed the Gabinetto Fotografico Nazionale, promoting the work of cataloguing as well as the photographic documentation of Italian works of art. In 1964, he became Superintendent of Galleries in Lazio. He retired in 1966 and died in Rome on 15 November 1978.