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
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 Pinacotecas 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)
8:30AM - 7PM
tel. 02 89421146