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in 1811 Vincenzo Carlo Domenico Baldassarre Simelli was born at Stroncone in Umbria (province of Terni) and 125 kilometres from Rome.
When he was young his family moved to Rome and he took up art specializing in perspective drawing and engraving. In 1848 he enlisted in the Roman Civil Guard and departed as a volunteer for Vicenza to fight against the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
From 1850 to 1853 he was in Sabina (province of Rieti) where he devoted himself to landscape sketching and some of these he subsequently made into engravings.
It would seem that Simelli took up photography in 1857 beginning with some Roman views and genre photos of the Roman people that give him a certain fame. Following these images he was commissioned to photograph the buttresses of the dome in the Vatican for the Reverenda Fabbrica of S. Pietro. This task, performed with calotypes, was composed of 170 images. At the same period he held, together with Giacomo Caneva, lessons on the practical application of perspective. This brings him into contact with the painter Bernardo Celentano for whom Simelli takes a series of photographs for the display of the painting "The Cellini to Castel Sant'Angelo" (1857).
In 1864 Simelli published the photographic work "Antiquités Chrétiennes de Rome du V° au XVI° Siècle décrites par le Chanoine Barbier de Montault et photographiées par C.B. Simelli" This work was continued by Simelli up to 1870. Through this work and Barbier de Montault he met the English archaeologist John Henry Parker and they became close friends.
Simelli collaborated with Parker beginning from the end of 1864 and took the first 755 photographs that were the first part of the archaeological repertoire of the antiquities of Classical and Christian Rome. He also became the publisher and seller of this work from his studio and shop at Via del Corso 509. The archaeological collaboration with Parker continued for some years and later others took the photographs to continue the work including A. de Bonis and it is on this basis that collaboration between de Bonis and Simelli is proposed. We could also propose that de Bonis, whose biography is at the moment completely unknown, could have been the camera operator of Simelli with his name appearing only in the second catalog of John Henry Parker.
In 1871 Carlo Baldassarre Simelli surrendered his studio on Via del Corso to the French photographer Gustave Eugene Chauffourier who had arrived from Naples. Simelli moved first to Frascati and then to Lazio and Abruzzo where he returned to his earlier activities as a draftsman and an engraver concentrating on details within nature - just as he had done in photography. He presumably died after 1877 in Rome.
[Kindly contributed by Marco C. Antonetto, Jan 15, 2008]