The Scala Archives

About us? SCALA archives in 10 points

  1. The Scala Picture Library - A Superb Fine Art Collection
  2. Which Museums Do We Represent?
  3. Scala Archives – History & Cinema
  4. How Many Images Do We Have & Who Can Offer You Assistance?
  5. Why do Museums Entrust the Management of their Collections to Us?
  6. What Advantages can Scala Offer to Those in Search of Images?
  7. When Was Scala Born & Why Are We Called Scala Archives?
  8. The website and multilingual art history searches
  9. Who is Scala Group?
  10. Scala’s History

The Scala Picture Library - A Superb Fine Art Collection

SCALA ARCHIVES is the largest and most prestigious fine art image archive worldwide. Transparencies and high resolution digital files of works of art from all over the world, covering every age and every field of visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, archaeology, the ancient & the modern world, decorative arts, photography, design, fashion etc.) are available for licensing to all media.

Italian art makes up the core of the collection, however the Library contains thousands of first-rate works from the rest of Europe, the United States, Russia, the Middle and Far East, and Africa.

We are an important intermediary between museums & publishing houses and we offer unique services to both our customers & the collections we represent. Our aim has always been to support and advance the study, knowledge, love and diffusion of art and its history.

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Which Museums Do We Represent?

Scala is either the outright owner or official agent for many of the most important art, fashion, photography & historical collections worldwide (see Main Museums).

To mention but a few among the diverse locations, collections and museums represented: The Italian and German State Museums (Berlin, Dresden, Munich, etc.), the Vatican Museums, Egyptian Museum, Turin, The Luce/Cinecittà Archive, The Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, The Louvre, The Musée d’Orsay, ADAGP collection (the French artists’ rights management society), The Pushkin Museum, Moscow, The Hermitage and The Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg, The National Gallery and V&A, London, The UK National Trust, The Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, The Museu Gulbenkian, Lisbon, The Munch Museum, Oslo, The Prado and The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid,  and the Kyoto International Culture Foundation.

Furthermore several US museums have chosen to be represented by Scala Archives. Among them: the MoMA – Museum of Modern Art, NY (worldwide exclusivity), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (essentially European exclusivity), The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, The Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Neue Galerie, The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum,  New York, and numerous others.

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Scala Archives – History & Cinema

Since 2010 we represent the Cinecittà-Luce Archive. This collection of over 3 million images forms an exceptional documentary of life in Italy in the 1900’s. Political & social reform from 1919 to 1965, the height & decline of Fascism, the birth of the Republic, Italy reborn after the Second World War, the film stars, via Veneto and La Dolce Vita. Combined with the DuFoto and AGF archives it offers a great chronicle of Italy’s recent past.

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How Many Images Do We Have & Who Can Offer You Assistance?

The Scala Picture Library includes over 300,000 images representing works of art, architecture, landscapes, monuments, fashion & photography, history, anthropology and travel. Its founders could never have guessed that their early dream would develop into an archive now considered as the world's most important art image collection. The quality as well as comprehensiveness of its holdings makes it unique. A multilingual and experienced staff is available in offices in Florence, London & Paris, as well as in our agents’ offices in New York, Tokyo, Sao Paolo and Seoul.

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Why do Museums Entrust the Management of their Collections to Us?

The main function of a museum isn’t to provide high resolution images, hence it often can find itself unable to create or maintain the structure capable of meeting the outside demand for reproductions and permissions, especially if received on short notice. A company like Scala, specialized in “Museum Image Licensing”, can help provide high quality images along with a fast service & an in-depth knowledge of the laws governing licensing of artworks, including regulations on the cropping of images and copyright law. Museums, institutions, art collections & photographic archives can thus be assured an increased revenue from the sale of reproduction rights at no additional cost (see Services to Museums). In fact while additional promotion will raise image sales all of the associated organizational costs, including debt recovery, will be assumed by Scala.

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What Advantages can Scala Offer to Those in Search of Images?

  • Thousands of images daily increased with best-sellers or less known works of art
  • Dedicated, expert and multilingual staff
  • Time & cost savings - all the image research is carried out on a single website
  • Hand tailored searches are expertly & efficiently carried out
  • Highest quality images. Allowing for outstanding reproductions in any format, from inside editorial uses to large scale interior design panels
  • Convenience of a set rate and flexibility of payment terms
  • Speed of delivery of mail orders as well as on-line downloads available 24 hours a day (to registered clients)
  • New ideas for editorial projects offered on a regular basis
  • No copyright violation risks. Thanks to Scala’s policy of supporting the customer with any query on artist’s copyright, the rights of the photographer, personality rights, and/or the rights of the owner of the work. Saving time, costs, and achieving peace of mind.

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When Was Scala Born & Why Are We Called Scala Archives?

SCALA ISTITUTO FOTOGRAFICO EDITORIALE S.A.S. was founded in Florence in 1953 by two young Art History students with a passion for Photography: John Clark & Mario Ronchetti, with support & encouragement from their famous professor Roberto Longhi. At the time there was still a tendency in the field to attribute greater importance to form and volumes of an artwork, colour being considered almost an accessory element. Longhi’s idea was, instead, to professionally photograph the works of art & architecture, and to offer these images, for the first time in faithful colour, to the publishing world in order to assist in the further study of the art works. The company thus found in commercial publishing the necessary means to cover the expenses for their pioneering photographic campaigns, which were photographed, unusually for that time, exclusively on colour film & producing large format transparencies (13x18 and 20x25 cm.), perfect for professional printing. In order to control possible alterations of colours in the original slides, colour & grey scale standard labels (Kodak Colour Control Patches) were used. These strips, placed underneath the work to be photographed, provide a standardised chromatic reference in order to estimate variation of the colours of the film during years. With the aid of this guide it is possible to assess the reddening of a film, correct it with film masks (today with the help of digital retouching) that balance the cyan and magenta layers of the slide. It is from this colour scale (scala colore in Italian), that Scala takes its name. Today we can see that the adoption of this system was a far-sighted choice, in fact at the time few would have bet on the fidelity and durability of colour photos, particularly with regard to the reproduction of art works. Today Scala Lab) still works with experts in the field of restoration and digital film retouching; lastly Scala’s photographers are the best in the documentary art photography field.

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The website and multilingual art history searches

The archive’s images have been entirely digitised and are available on-line. All images are protected against unauthorised use by traceable electronic watermarks. Customers can obtain free access to the images by registering and logging into the site. The site from the start was in the main bilingual (Italian & English) and over time now almost all the text has been translated into English including titles, locations, English version’s of artists names etc. A French page has then been added, with all instructions and descriptive texts in French, but the majority of the captions is in English. In order to get round this difficulty, and to shorten the time necessary for a full translation into Italian/English also of a number of external archives represented, whose image information is only available in the original language (French or German), Scala has decided to use an innovative multilingual search engine that directly translates keywords searched for into all languages available in the database.

Once your account is enabled it is then possible to immediately download your search results as high resolution files from the site. Alternatively, orders can be submitted on-line where a member of Scala’s staff will send the image to you via email, download link or FTP.

Customers may also use the free thematic search service provided by the Library's expert staff ( Thanks to Scala's highly sophisticated Internal Search Database enabled with over 7000 keywords, our team can easily perform in depth and specific searches based on a person, an event, or a theme (for example a “Madonna & Child” , the “French Revolution” or more simply “Cat”).
Access to the site is free, but registering on the site (also free of charge),  certainly offers further advantages (see Registration Advantages).

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Who is Scala Group?

Scala Archives forms part of Scala Group SpA, a multimedia company active internationally in the field of Image Sales, Creation and Production of Editorial Art Publications, Training & Development courses, and able to provide its contents in a variety of formats and platforms. The Archive is the oldest entity and lies at the heart of the general Scala Group operation by supplying its images to the numerous projects carried out by the other two departments comprising the group: Scalabooks and

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Scala’s History


  • Scala becomes official agent for the Cinecittà-Luce Archive, the Gulbenkian Museum and CAM (Centro de Arte Moderno, Lisbon), WGBH, Boston (part of PBS Media Group, the most important and largest national broadcast production company in the US), the Wallace Collection, London (as Italian agent) and Gaspart, Paris (photos from French museums).


  • Scala becomes official agent for the National Gallery, London, also the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, the National Trust, UK, AGF & ANSA (Italian Photojournalism Agencies; images of art, cultural sites & Italian politics amongst others), Cameraphoto (the most important Venetian photographic archive), Photographic agency Dufoto (Italian history from the 1950s to present day), Marie Mauzy (classic Greek Art), Nativestock Pictures, Idaho (American Indians), Yonatan Frimer (Israeli graphic artist) & Andrea Jemolo (world art and architecture, agent outside Italy).
  • The musèe du quai Branly renews the agreement with us for worldwide exclusivity for another 5 years.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art makes an agreement with us for exclusive representation in Europe (excluding France & Germany).
  • New American Museums via Art Resource available for European customers: LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute, Utica, Neue Galerie & Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo.


  • Scala opens an office in Paris and two desks in Florence, one responsible for German speaking customers, the other for Spanish language countries.
  • Scala becomes the official agent for the Fondazione Museo delle Antichità Egizie (Egyptian Museum in Turin) and of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
  • Scala extends its distribution of the Victoria & Albert Museum images to France, Switzerland & Belgian customers.
  • Scala also extends distribution of BPK images to various North European customers. More museums from the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and galleries belonging to the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen in Munich are added, amongst them the Alte and Neue Pinakothek.
  • New museums via Art Resource made available for European customers are: McNay Art Museum, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation & the Kimbell Art Museum.


  • The new web site is launched; HR download in real time is made available to registered users.
  • Scala becomes the official representative of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, The DeAgostini Archive, The Kyoto International Cultural Foundation & the Yale University Art Gallery.


  • MoMA, New York revises the 2002 contract granting Scala total exclusivity.
  • Scala starts shooting with digital camera backs.
  • Scala is selected as its worldwide exclusive Representative by the musée du quai Branly, Paris, the largest collection worldwide of non western & anthropological arts.
  • ADAGP's Image Bank, Paris (the picture library created by France's National Rights Society) selects Scala as its exclusive worldwide Representative (with exception of France, USA & Japan).
  • The Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage (Ministero dei Beni Culturali) renews its contract with Scala for distribution of images from across a broad range of Italian museums & art institutions.
  • Scala has more than 5,000 customers in 100 countries, and 20,000 on-line registered users.
  • launches art books sold via newsagent kiosks and rapidly becomes distribution leader in sales of books, multimedia & cultural products as collateral promotions tied in with newspapers & magazines.


  • Scala signs an agreement with the Heritage Image Partnership, a consortium of 12 illustrious UK museums, such as the British Library and the British Museum.
  • Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, the German State Museums, Berlin, signs a cross-representation deal with Scala in Italy, United Kingdom and Spain, as well as a reciprocity agreement for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art entrusts Scala via Art Resource their image distribution in Europe


  • The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, New York, selects Scala as its worldwide exclusive image rights representative (the agreement was renewed in 2005). MoMA is the first museum to offer only HR files for reproduction use - this accelerates the publishing market's shift to digital workflow.
  • The Italian Ministry of Culture appoints Scala as its agent for images of artworks from over 600 museums and sites (the agreement was renewed in 2006). A steady stream of new images and restoration documentation for numerous artworks is thus ensured.


  • Scala Istituto Fotografico Editoriale merges with ACTA to create Scala Group S.p.A.
  • Creation of S.p.A., whose aim is the development of  strategic educational projects, the achievement of educational systems, providing private corporations as well as public entities with tools and services focused in this field. is a partner highly qualified in planning and delivering projects for distance learning, as well as content and knowledge management and administration.
  • Alongside its American agent Art Resource, Scala becomes the European representative of several Museums in the United States, such as the Pierpont Morgan Library, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


  • Scala's laboratory starts scanning in HR at 1000 dpi, at a 1/1 scale, and allowing colour corrected transparencies to be printed with a Kodak film recorder enhancing the commerciability & archival potential of the images - the market isn’t ready yet to handle high resolution images for press & publishing


  • Scala’s Visual Information System, a custom made and proprietary software facilitating the consolidation of digitisation data, indexing, photo research, billing, statistics and delivery information, is created.
  • On-line low resolution display of all Scala contents is made available.


  • Acquisition of ACTA S.p.A., a small IT company. This allows Scala to be the very first fine arts library to go digital.


  • Progressive acquisition of the company by its present shareholders.
  • The photographic laboratory begins to specialise in producing large format transparencies & in the manual restoration of colour alterations of film.


  • Scala begins its tourism themed publishing activity with a series of richly illustrated monographs and museum catalogues. Most titles were and are available in several languages.


  • Scala starts the production of projection slides, predominately used in the fields of arts, sciences and tourism. Scala’s first major collaboration with European and US publishers begin.


  • After an initial trial period using various film types to individuate the medium that would guarantee the most colour fidelity, the Kodak film is chosen, this being the most sensitive to shades & variations of colour & contrast but unfortunately rather delicate in its stability. Other films previously used (like ANSCO) have turned out to be more durable, however, they have more limited potential in colour quality, tending towards an overly cold tonal range & toward flattening of the dimensional space.
  • Having photographed images from several predominantly local sites and having received enthusiastic approval, the experimental stage of the project is over. In co-operation with the Italian Ministry of Education (then responsible for cultural heritage too), as well as public administrations and private collectors, numerous additional major photographic campaigns in Europe’s museums are at this point set up and brought to completion.


  • SCALA ISTITUTO FOTOGRAFICO EDITORIALE S.A.S. is founded in Florence on the initiative of the illustrious Italian art historian Roberto Longhi. The mission is to professionally photograph works of art (painting, frescoes, monuments, etc.) all in colour, a technique which had only recently become available. The goal is that of making such images swiftly available to both the educational and publishing worlds.

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