Sunday, July 16, 2017


So moving on with this great adventure of mine - and after surviving six weeks of the mafia and the Lambrettas of Sicily - I have now traveled right up to the top of Italy for a couple of weeks of glamour and art in Milan ... 

And after settling into my Airbnb apartment - finding the supermarket and working out the light switches etc - all those important things - it's now off to the city centre by tram #4 ( just a quick 20 minutes away ) ...

... and after my second breakfast for the day ...

 ... I seek out the fabulous Pinacoteca di Brera
 for my first taste of art in Northern Italy ...

The Palazzo Brera was built on the site of a 14th century monastery of the Umiliati order which was subsequently given to the Jesuits, who founded a school here. Italian arcjitect Francesco Maria Richini began in the early 17th century to turn it into the solidly austere building as it is today.

When the Jesuits were disbanded in 1773 by state decree, the Collegio di Brera became state property and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria  - then also the sovereign of Milan - decided in 1776 to use the palace to house several of the city’s leading cultural institutes. In addition to the Accademia di Belle Arti, the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense and the Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Lettere, she also assigned the, the Osservatorio Astronomico and the Orto Botanico to her new foundation.

Then in the early 1800s when the Austrian Habsburg dynasty lost power, a large chunk of Italy fell to the French under Napoleon Bonaparte. The Kingdom of Italy ( 1805 to 1814 ) - as a French client state - was formalized on March 17, 1805, when the Italian Republic, became the Kingdom of Italy, with Napoleon I as King of Italy, and his step-son, the 24-year-old Eugène de Beauharnais his viceroy. Napoleon I was crowned at the Duomo di Milano, Milan on May 26, with the Iron Crown of Lombardy. His title was "Emperor of the French and King of Italy".

A bronze statue of Napoleon in the guise of Mars the Peacemaker, cast in Rome to a design by Antonio Canova, was erected in the centre of the courtyard in 1808.

Porticos, courtyards, hallways and corridors were added to the palace throughout the 19th century as settings for monuments publicly celebrating artists, benefactors, humanists and scientists associated with the Accademia di Brera and the Braidense.

The Brera Gallery was officially established by Napoleon in 1809, and then increased in the following post-Napoleonic years – attached the Gallery is the Accademia di Belle Arti, established by Empress Mary Therese of Austria to offer the students the opportunity to study lofty masterpieces of art close up. 

The academy is still running - and I was fortunate to time my visit on an open day at the academy - and so was able to wander through the various art departments and chat to a few of the young students about their art and their hopes for their futures ...

Brera become a museum to host the most important works of art from all of the areas conquered by the French armies of Napoleon. So unlike other important museums in Italy such as the Uffizi, Brera did not start out life as the private collection of a prince or nobleman but as the product of a deliberate policy decision.

Paintings confiscated from churches and convents throughout Lombardy with the religious orders’ dissolution began to pour into the museum in the early years of the 19th century, soon to be joined by artworks of similar provenance from other areas of the Kingdom of Italy. This explains why the collection comprises chiefly religious works, many of them large altarpieces, and accounts for Brera’s special focus on which later acquisitions have been added.

And so to the Gallery ... 

 Altobello Melone - 1490

 Simone da Corbetta - 1390

Bergognone - 1523

 Il Moro - 1480

 Lorenzo Lotto - 1556

 Paris Bordone - 1571

 Sofonisba Anguissola - 1625

... restoration work underway ... 

Lorenzo Coasta - 1535
Filipo Mazzola - 1505
 Boccaccio Boccaccino - 1525

 Carlo Crivelli - 1495

 ... amazing detail ...

 Carlo Crevilli - 1495
... centre panel of tripych ...

... detail ...
 Carlo Crevilli - 1495
... centre panel of triptych ...

 Guido Cagnacci - 1663

 Guido Reni - 1642

 Caravaggio - 1610

 Orazio Gentileschi - 1639

Francesco Cairo - 1665

 Giulio Cesare Procaccini - 1625

 Daniele Crespi - 1630

 Simon Vouet - 1649

Daniele Crispi - 1630
 Annibale Carracci - 1609

 Giambattista Tiepolo - 1770

 Giacomo Ceruti - 1767

 Giovanni  Canaletto - 1768

 Human Flood - Giuseppi Pellizza - 1896
Atalanta - Luigi Antonio Acquisti - 1823

 The Kiss - Francesco Hayez - 1859

 Early Afternoon - Silvestro Lega - 1895

 Saint Mark Preaching in Alexandria Egypt
Gentile and Giovanni Bellini - 1507

 ... detail ...

... detail ...
 ... detail ...

 ... detail ...

 Plaster replica of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker
Antonio Canova - 1808

Having exhausted myself wandering through this amazing museum, it was back down the marble stairs -


- and a visit to the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense - also still in use as a research library for the public and students ...

... and finally, a quick wander through the cool shade of the Botanical Gardens attached to the Academy before setting off in search of lunch ...

... a beautiful first morning's introduction to creative life in Milan ...