Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

The Acton Collection

The Acton Collection which fills the rooms in the interior of Villa La Pietra consists of more than 5000 objects from a wide range of styles and media including early Italian panel paintings, Flemish tapestries, Renaissance polychrome sculptures, French dresses, Art Nouveau silver, Chinese ceramics, and important Baroque furniture. The collection also contains a library of some 12,000 volumes, of which many are first editions as well as the family papers, including more than 16,000 photographs. The collection is arranged as it was in the Acton's time, not as a formal museum display, but as a decorative ensemble in which works of art play off each other and the styles of the historic villa building itself. Visitors can appreciate that this is the single best example of an Anglo-American private collection formed in Florence in the early years of the 20th century still intact in the home for which it was all intended, and, as such, it is of great interest as an example of the taste of the time.

In 2014 NYU Florence students, faculty and staff started looking the Acton Collection with a fresh eye. A compound and transversal project Transatlantic Modernities: Villa La Pietra in the Twenties originated from the exploration of the Acton family home, guests, objects and artistic milieu during the “Roaring Twenties”. Those years saw the establishment of the Actons as prestigious members of Florentine society, art collectors and extraordinary hosts with impeccable taste–entertaining many Italian and Foreign intellectuals and artists within their renowned villa. During this time of peace and prosperity, before the Great Depression of 1929, great advances were made in both social rights and technology–women’s right to vote, the invention of the car, radio, etc.– as well as poetry and literature, fashion and entertainment–a holistic and vibrant display of ‘flapper’ dress, music, dance, theater and art. Having a plethora of artifacts and documents, which exemplify the innovative progression of the 1920’s, NYU students and faculty have started to shed light on five themes -Guests, Books, Garden, Fancy Dress and which are now presented on the media website platform and an on-site temporary exhibition, showing for the first time three of Hortense Mitchell Acton’s 1920s costumes

Transatlantic Modernities Web-site