Talented Italian costume designer Adriana Berselli (Ferrara, 1928 – Rome, 2018) worked in film, theatre, fashion and television. Born and raised in Ferrara, she later lived in Rome, Milan, London, followed by thirteen years in Venezuela, before finally returning to Rome in 1991. Thanks to her keen observation skills, her fast understanding of ideas and her interest in all kinds of artistic expression – achieved through a careful analysis of the script and of historical iconographic sources as well as preliminary research into the fabrics, colours and accessories of each era – she was able to breathe life into characters by capturing their personality, effectively conveying their psychology and narrative purpose, and interpreting the ideas of the directors she worked for. She trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, where she attended the Set Design Course, and at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, where she took the Costume Design Course with Veniero Colasanti and Alessandro Mainetti and graduated in 1951. In 1953 she obtained her first jobs as costume designer for Sergio Greco, Mario Di Girolami and Georg Wilhelm Pabts, and later for Alessandro Blasetti in 1954. Her career as a costume designer in cinema continued with, among others: Luigi Comencini, Riccardo Freda, Dino Risi, Steno, Michelangelo Antonioni, Carlo Lizzani, Roman Polanski, Carlo Di Palma; she worked with Totò; she also designed dresses for international celebrities such as Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster, Peter Sellers, Lee Van Cleef, Harvey Keitel, Michele Simon, Lee Strasberg, and Italian actresses and actors such as Claudia Cardinale, Sergio Citti, Valentina Cortese, Ninetto Davoli, Eduardo De Filippo, Vittorio De Sica, Gabriele Ferzetti, Sylva Koscina, Virna Lisi, Sophia Loren, Nino Manfredi, Marcello Mastroianni, Giovanna Ralli, Alberto Sordi, Romolo Valli, Monica Vitti. In the late 1970s she went on a ten-year hiatus from her film career in order to follow her husband to Venezuela, where she won several awards in the fields of theatre and fashion; during this time she also taught costume design courses in academies, culture clubs, universities and TV programmes. She then returned to Italy and devoted herself to cinema and TV projects.
The collection was donated by costume designer Adriana Berselli to the Luigi Chiarini Library in 2004 and was classified by the Soprintendenza Archivistica e Bibliografica of Lazio as being of particularly important historical interest. It features a nucleus of books about history, art and the history of costume and fashion, the majority of which are rare eighteenth- and nineteenth-century editions; there is also a substantial collection of press cuttings, photographs and copies of images that she used as iconographic sources; it also contains handwritten work notes and, most importantly, a remarkable set of original sketches that Berselli drew while designing costumes for film, television and theatre. The collection is divided into 103 files, containing about 1500 sketches and 3 notebooks; 804 photos; 9600 miscellaneous items such as press cuttings, handwritten notes, typed documents and iconographic material; 80 photostatic copies of original sketches.
Ceccarelli, Laura and Cipriani, Marina (eds.). Carte, colori e tessuti. Ritratto di una costumista: Adriana Berselli. Un fondo della biblioteca “Luigi Chiarini”. “Quaderni della biblioteca Luigi Chiarini”, CSC, Rome, 2005
Biondi, Teresa. Il fondo Berselli (scritti su e di Adriana Berselli), in Segni di moda nell’immagine filmica. La cultura della moda nell’arte del costumista. Meti, Cosenza, 2012
Caratozzolo, Vittoria Caterina and Tarquini, Silvia (eds.). Adriana Berselli. L’avventura del costume: cinema, teatro, televisione, moda, design. Artdigiland, Dublin, 2016