Marirosa Toscani Ballo, Pioneering Photographer Who Documented the History of Design, Dies at 92

Marirosa Toscani Ballo was Aldo Ballo’s partner in the legendary Ballo & Ballo studio. For over six decades she photographed the history of Italian and international design.

Marirosa Toscani photographed with her husband the late Aldo Ballo, with whom she founded the legendary Ballo & Ballo studio. Its archive is now in the civic collections of the city of Milan.

Marirosa Toscani Ballo, a pioneering Italian photographer and wife of photographer Aldo Ballo, passed away at the age of 92. Born in Milan, Italy on March 25, 1931, Toscani Ballo was the daughter of a reporter at the Corriere della Sera and attended the artistic high school in Brera during World War II.

In 1957, Toscani Ballo and her husband established Ballo & Ballo, a photography studio that became a renowned reference in the fields of design, architecture, and art. The studio was appreciated by prominent figures in these fields and counted some of the world’s most famous designers and architects, such as Gio Ponti, Bruno Munari, and Renzo Piano, among its clients.

Toscani Ballo’s photographs have become part of the cultural consciousness and are still widely used as reference images today. The couple’s sixty-year legacy in photography was celebrated with the donation of their extensive collection of images dedicated to the world of design to the city of Milan. The collection, which comprises 184,203 photographs, inventories, books, and documents, was recently transferred to the Sforza Castle to enrich the Civic Photographic Archive. This donation provides the archive with nationally and internationally relevant documentation of Milanese art, design, and architecture from the late 1950s to the present day.

“She leaves behind an indelible mark on all who knew her, on the cultural life of our city, and the history of photography and design,” wrote Tommaso Sacchi, Milan City Councilor for Culture, on Instagram. Photographer Settimio Benedusi also expressed his condolences on Instagram, saying, “Marirosa was a photographer and a great photographer, especially in the glory years of the explosion of Italian design, which she documented with her husband, the great Aldo Ballo.”

In 2009, the City of Milan honoured the legacy of Ballo & Ballo with an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Pavilion (PAC), titled “Ballo+Ballo, the language of the object through the photographs of Aldo Ballo and Marirosa Toscani Ballo,” curated by Enrico Baleri and Luigi Baroli.

Katherine Thomson is an arts critic in Milan.