Dear Maria Teresa De Bellis,

What a pleasure to meet you at the Académie de France, in this place outside the
time, wonderful, rare, this place dedicated to arts and creation where I spent
moments. You are a figure of the Villa Medici, these
librarian figures who welcome and guide the reader with
benevolence and generosity. Like a Lucien Herr rue d'Ulm in
time of the Dreyfus affair or Noeëlle de La Blanchardière in the
close to the French School of Rome, you are among those figures who
draw a landscape and shape a universe. How to forget that
Marcel Proust was librarian at Mazarine from 1895 to 1900? How
forget that Leconte de Lisle and Anatole France are furious librarians of
Senate? And what about Hector Berlioz, librarian of the Conservatory, of
Théophile Gautier, librarian of Princess Mathilde or
Robert Musil; librarian of the Technical University of Vienna from 1910 to
You were born in Bari, in this region of Puglia penetrated by influence
which is already looking towards the Balkans and the East, a region
open to the wide horizons and cultures of the Mediterranean. Your
Italian-French bilingual training at the Institut Saint Dominique in
Lucerne, then Rome finally in Mortefontaine in the Oise, makes you a
European convinced in love with the humanities. In 1975, you support
your Laurea in La Sapienza under the direction of Professor Colesanti on
The new theatre in Quebec.
In 1972, Balthus recruited you at the Académie de France and you were
first attached to the Office of the Secretary General, Mr. Jean Mathieu. You
welcome, administer, “surround” them with your attention
residents. You also monitor the cultural activities of
the Academy of France in Rome: exhibitions, concerts, reports
with the press. , in other words you make the Villa this place of culture
and life that I had the pleasure of leading by opening it to the City, by having the
constant dialogue between the legacy and the future of the
In May 1979, you agreed to work at the Library, in this
place made of books and folio that Montaigne aptly designated
like a “bookstore”. You train, you get several
diplomas at the Scuola Vaticana, at the
Librarians of Lyon in May 1982, finally at the Scuola
Speciale di bibliotecari e archivisti de l'Université La Sapienza en
1991, with a thesis on the project of the New Library of
France. Thanks to an intellectual operation, the two towers of the
Trinité des Monts touch the four towers of the
François Mitterrand library designed by Dominique Perrault.
Since 1980, you are the recognized librarian of this beautiful
institution, so important in the artistic residency policy of the
Ministry of Culture and Communication. From the beginning, you have
was concerned to take this remarkable place out of its isolation and create
links with museum libraries, particularly in France and
Italy. You make this place a natural link between researchers and
the institutions of both countries.
One of your first concerns was to recreate the 19th century library
century. Your work is made difficult, if not impossible, by the lack of
catalogs of the time, whose files were destroyed in the first
part of the 20th century. In collaboration with Isabelle Chave,
director of the Epinal Departmental Archives, and thanks to the
collaboration of the Art History Department where the
Archives, you’re proceeding with a patient and scholarly reconstruction.
In 2000, on the occasion of the jubilee year so important for the city of
Rome, you become responsible for the library and you start
an ambitious policy of highlighting the graphic fund of the
Library of the Académie de France in Rome. You exhume from oblivion
collections of great historical interest: a catalogue of
Cabinet du Roi; the collection of Caricatures des Pensionnaires and especially the
cataloging hundreds of unpublished travel drawings of
architect François-Nicolas Normand, which the library received as a gift
in the mid-1970s.
You are currently working on an inventory of the graphic
including works that were part of the Villa Medici Museum,
eagerly desired by the director A. Puech and inaugurated in the presence
of the King of Italy, Victor-Emmanuel III, in 1933. Part of these works
were presented during the exhibition Villa Aperta in 2009, which I had
the pleasure of proposing during my «Roman years». This is to highlight
how much the old collection of the Villa library holds treasures
hidden and buried remains. In this, you join the intuition of
Borges according to which ordering a library is a way
silent to exercise the art of criticism».
As a follow-up to the work drafted in the 1990s, you have
decided this year to entrust a student-curator of the ENSSIB
Care to make the history of the archaeological fund whose history is little known.
From this fund are part of a composite series of the Expedition to Egypt,
but also a series of engravings of Piranese father and son and leaflets
some of which carry stamps from the Royal Academy of
18th century. Other traces of this French presence in Rome, and
especially on this hill of the Pincio which was for travellers like
for pilgrims a haven of peace and a place of meditation." As soon as we
sees a walk planted with trees in Italy – does not fail to note,
cautiously, Stendhal – we can be assured that it is the work of
some French prefect»!
Entering the Villa Medici Library is a bit like visiting a
“place of memory” patinated by time, a territory shaped by the
successive librarians. It is also for the
researchers, Italian and foreign, but also for residents of
the Academy of France benefit from your thoughtful attention and your
admirable knowledge of the funds. As everyone knows, the librarian
is a memory professional, a professional who often does
body with books to the point of becoming himself a man-books,
internalizing the contents or organizing their only references
until you enter the catalogue… as you enter religion! Character
elevated to literary rank by Jacques Roubaud in La Belle Hortense, the
library - your “second home”, so to speak - is also a
Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders to the Name of
Umberto Eco’s Rose, adapted to the screen by Jean Jacques Annaud. A
the time of the digital revolution, I have no doubt that
new romanesque representations of the librarian as mediator of the
knowledge, memory saver, information therapist
To me, dear Maria Teresa de Bellis, you are a little bit all this,
you are among those who make books loved, who
enjoy reading and sharing their knowledge. Also, on behalf of the
President of the Republic and under our powers
conferred, French, we present you the insignia of knight of the
Legion of Honour.