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The collections of the Bibliothèque de Genève’s Centre d’iconographie genevoise have a strong connection with the output of local images. They provide a striking overall view of that output, from the 16th century to the present. The strong points of the Centre are its collections of topographic views (18th and 19th centuries) and portraits (16th through the 20th century), and its groups of Genevan photographs (19th and 20th centuries).

"Vues panoramiques de Genève et de ses environs", Robert Gardelle, avant 1719, Bibliothèque de Genève, inv. CIG 0162

Topographic views

Unlike other European cities, Geneva did not develop an urban iconography during the Renaissance. Until the late 17th century, images were to remain rare, more often realized through the initiative of some of the great foreign makers of images like Sebastian Münster, Claude Chastillon and Matthäus Merian. With the development of tourism in the 18th century, the trend was reversed. Geneva became a production center of local and regional views, especially alpine subjects, of which the collections of the Centre d’iconographie genevoise offer quite a comprehensive panorama, notably with works by Gardelle, Geissler, Hackert, the Lincks and Dubois. These views are like so many glimpses of Genevan lands and how they once looked. There are overall views of the city, groups of buildings, even single constructions.

The geographic area covered is Geneva, the city and canton, as well as the neighboring regions of Switzerland and France. The collections also boast maps to supplement the views with a topographical approach.

"Vues panoramiques de Genève et de ses environs", Robert Gardelle, avant 1719, Bibliothèque de Genève, inv. CIG 0164

Portrait collections

Portraits of the famous constitute one of the Bibliothèque’s oldest heritage collections, and it has been endlessly added to and expanded right up to the present. Thus, the Centre d’iconographie genevoise documents the image of the main protagonists of local intellectual, social, and political life.

The best-known of these figures include the “Genevan” reformers Calvin and Theodore Beza, the philosopher-writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, of whom the Centre d’incongraphie genevoise conserves the greatest number of likenesses after the Bibliothèque nationale française, and General Guillaume-Henri Dufour, who gave rise to a host of images in the 19th century.

More recently, we might mention the musicians Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and Ernest Ansermet. And with the founding of the Red Cross and the Society of Nations, celebrity’s many faces became international. The Centre d’iconographie genevoise conserves numerous portraits of politicians and delegation members who have visited Geneva.

"Ami Lullin (1695-1756), théologien genevois", Nicolas de Largillère, 1720, Bibliothèque de Genève, inv. CIG 0031

Collections of Genevan photography

The Centre d’iconographie genevoise conserves extensive photograph collections dating from the mid-19th century to the present. The beginnings of the medium are especially well documented, with several hundred daguerreotypes attributed to Jean-Gabriel Eynard, a number of which date from the early 1840s; and several series of Genevan calotypes that are particularly remarkable, including the oldest photograph of the city, which has been precisely dated to 1842. In 2011, the Centre took over the conservation of the entire stock of the Boissonnas studio, the most famous photography studio in Geneva from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. This extraordinary trove represents some 150,000 images, including 30,000 prints.

« Fred Boissonnas examinant le 100 000e négatif produit par son atelier », Fred Boissonnas, 1913, Bibliothèque de Genève, inv. CIG FBB N13x18 Famille 63000 0286

Passage de la Tour 2
1205 Genève

T: +41 22 418 46 70
F: +41 22 418 46 71

Monday to Friday: 9 am – 12 am (by appointment)

Nicolas Schätti
T: +41 22 418 46 77