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Pinacoteca di Brera
Pinacoteca di Brera

  a key to Milan home page space
excerpt from pages 90-91
Milan's most outstanding museum, Brera is recognized as one of the major art collections in the world. It was initially founded by the Hapsburgs in the late 18th century, as a small collection of paintings, sculptures and plaster copies to be used by the Accademia's student body.
Its patrimony came from churches and the estates of Catholic clerical orders that had been suppressed not long before (the building which housed the Accademia had formerly been the Milanese headquarters of the Jesuit order).
The art collection was dramatically enlarged during the Napoleonic era between 1799-1815, when it received an extraordinary number of art works confiscated from all over the North of Italy. This was a direct consequence of Napoleon's policy towards the city. In Napoleon's view, Milan was destined to become a capital, albeit subject to Paris, and therefore needed to consolidate a conspicuous art collection of its own. Literally thousands of paintings were therefore indiscriminately confiscated from churches and private collections in all of the French-occupied Northern-Italian regions: Lombardy, Veneto (and of course Venice), a large chunk of Emilia Romagna and the Marche. In 1809 the great new museum opened its doors to the public.

It goes without saying that the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte did not bring with it the return of the masterpieces to their places of origin; this was also thanks to the idea - then coming to the fore - that a museum should perform the function of a centralized collection, of benefit to the whole community. The Brera Gallery was thus the undisputed beneficiary of a fabulous and unique artistic patrimony.
In 1882 the Pinacoteca was officially separated from the Accademia and thus became, to all effects and purposes, one of the Italian State's main art museums.
This role has not necessarily helped Brera. After WW2, for instance, intense conflicts arose between the State, the superintendents of this State-owned gallery, the civic administrators and the Church. As a result, the chronic need for new space to provide for better placement of the material stored still awaits a satisfactory solution. And there's another problem. Although Brera now has many paintings that did not originally belong in Milan, many of Brera's paintings are no longer on its premises (exhibited or in storage): they are on compulsory loan elsewhere, in the most varied locations - in other museums and churches, or in Italian Embassies abroad - often in places which have no relation whatsoever to the paintings' places of origin.

The collections are particularly important in understanding the history of the visual art in northern Italy between the 14th and 18th centuries. There are also excellent examples of Renaissance works, and famous, if not numerous, paintings by other Italian and foreign Old Masters.

In the last few decades, under the direction of Franco Russoli and then of Carlo Bertelli, Brera had made marked improvements to the exhibition of its treasures, which had increased in number thanks also to the addition of two outstanding private Milanese collections of modern art, the first being the Donazione Jesi (a permanent purchase), the other the Deposito Jucker (on loan).
During that period the Brera gallery frequently mounted temporary exhibitions, drawing from material in its permanent collections and in store, and it developed a temporary loans policy. It had also become the most 'international' of Milan's museum in terms of facilities, with a pleasant cafeteria under its portico, and a good shop for catalogues and books.
After Carlo Bertelli resigned from his post in the late 1980s - in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties - the management of the museum took a bureaucratic turn, plunging Brera into a nightmare period of uncertainty. The Jucker collection was withdrawn, and even the cafeteria disappeared.
Fortunately, in the 1990s the situation changed again, and the management has succeeded in improving the Pinacoteca’s situation. Rooms long barred have finally been opened to the public, the acquisition policy has been resumed, and Brera is now even getting ready to resume an old project by Russoli and Bertelli: turning into exhibition halls the 18th-century Palazzo Citterio at Via Brera 12-14.

Hereunder is a listing of the most oustanding artists whose works are exhibited at Brera.
Italian 14th century: frescoes from Mocchirolo, Ambrogio Lorenzetti (Madonna and Child), Maestro di Santa Colomba. Northern-Italian Renaissance: Vincenzo Foppa (Martyrdom of St Sebastian), Bernardino Luini, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Giampietrino (Madonna with Child), Francesco del Cossa, Andrea Mantegna (Dead Christ), Ercole de' Roberti (Madonna on the Throne), Giovanni Bellini (Pietà), Vittore Carpaccio, Carlo Crivelli. Central Italian Renaissance: Gentile da Fabriano (Polypthic of Valle Romita, Crucifixion), Donato Bramante (Christ at the Column), Piero della Francesca (Altar-piece of Federico da Montefeltro), Raphael (Marriage of the Virgin), Luca Signorelli. Old Masters of latter periods: Italians Lorenzo Lotto, Paolo Veronese, Jacopo Tintoretto, Tiziano Vecellio, Correggio, Caravaggio (Supper at Emmaus), Giambattista Tiepolo, Canaletto, Francesco Guardi, Pietro Longhi, Bernardo Bellotto, Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni, Giovan Battista Piazzetta (Rebecca at the Well); and non Italians El Greco (St Francis), van Dyck (Portrait of Amelia Solms), Rubens (Last Supper) and Rembrandt (Portrait of Artist's Sister). The Jesi collection is particularly significant for Futurist, Metaphysical and Novecento painting (Boccioni, Carrà, Sironi, Severini, Morandi, De Pisis), and for sculpture (Medardo Rosso, Martini and Marini). A Woman with Guitar by Massimo Campigli was acquired.

Via Brera 28
(inside the Brera Academy)
nearest subway stations

8:30AM - 7PM
• closed Monday

entrance charge

tel. 02 89421146

All rights reserved
copyright © 1996-2003
Monica Levy, Roberto Peretta
copyright © 1996
Ulrico Hoepli SpA, Milano

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