not be known as attractive as other Italian cities, but is instead full of attractions, history and arts.
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Monuments and Buildings
Follow the links below and discover a selection of the monuments that you cannot miss during your visit in Milan.
Museums in Milan
Milan boasts a richness and unique variety of museums.
Among the Art Museums, the Pinacoteca di Brera preserves artworks of extraordinary artistic value inside its walls. Other important collections are housed into the Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle) and in the Museo del Novecento. Several temporary exhibitions are hosted into Palazzo Reale.
There are lovely museum houses which host private collections in Milan. They preserve works of art, furniture, jewellery and objects of yesteryear in striking buildings of great historical value, such as the Poldi Pezzoli, the Bagatti Valsecchi, the Villa Necchi-Campigli and the Boschi di Stefano.
The ample scope of cultural museum collections also covers the naturalistic and scientific fields with the Museo di Storia Naturale (Museum of Natural History), the Acquario Civico (Civic Aquarium), the Planetarium and the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia (Museum of Science and Technology), which is dedicated to the great Leonardo da Vinci and has sections devoted to transport, materials and even the new frontiers of biotechnology and telecommunications.
Applied Arts and Design Museums
Historical and Religious Museums
Music and Entertainment Museums
Visual Arts Museums
Arts and History: Masterpieces
Masterpieces of Italian and international art from every century enrich the museums, churches and buildings of the Milanese metropolis.
The arts in Milan have long been favoured by numerous celebrated personages, even since the Roman period. Not long after the Emperor Constantine's Edict of Milan, in 313 AD, that allowed Christians to freely profess their religion, the bishop Ambrose promoted the construction of a belt of churches; the Viscontis commissioned the castle and the cathedral (Duomo) (thanks to petitioning by the Milanese); Ludovico il Moro sought to imitate the patronage of Cosimo and Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, inviting the most famous artists of the time, such as Leonardo and Bramante, to work in Milan; the charisma and genius of Charles Borromeo signified not only the religious reorganisation of the diocese, but also the erection of new churches; his cousin Cardinal Federico, Archbishop of Milan, founded the Biblioteca Ambrosiana (historical library) to which he wished to add a gallery and academy of art; and finally Napoleon commissioned new monuments as well as enriched the Pinacoteca di Brera (1618) with assets seized from the religious orders (French museums, however, were greater recipients).
(Leonardo Da Vinci, L'ultima Cena, 1495-1498)
Where: Refectory at the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, P.zza Santa Maria delle Grazie, 2 - 20123 Milan.
Leonardo’s Last Supper (L'Ultima Cena, 1495-1498) is inside the Refectory at the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in Milan. It was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza, also known as “il Moro”.
The event depicted is described in the Gospel according to St. John, the moment at which Christ, seated at the centre with his Apostles on both sides, reveals that He will soon be betrayed by one of them. This intense moment creates a tumult of expressions: some of the Apostles have risen to their feet, some are approaching their Master. Gestures and facial expressions, horror and amazement, surprise and confusion, surround the main character. This is set within an ingenious perspective that enhances Jesus’ central position.
This monumental work revealed its inherent problems as regards preservation right from the start, due to the fact that Leonardo painted on dry plaster. The artist used the technique generally employed for paintings on wooden panels, instead of using the fresco technique. Over the centuries, there have been many attempts to restore the Last Supper. The most recent operation went on for 22 years (1978 to 1999). It succeeded in revealing the original colours and many details that had previously been obscured.
(Andrea Mantegna, Compianto sul Cristo Morto, 1480)
Where: Brera Art Gallery,
Via Brera, 28 - 20121 Milan.
The Dead Christ (Cristo Morto), by Mantegna, is both the symbol of the perspective mastery of the painter and universal icon of the Italian Renaissance.This painting offers a revolutionary interpretation of the traditional iconography of the Lamentation over the Dead Christ, through the strongly foreshortened view of the body of Christ that manifests the signs of the Passion, with a strong figurative and emotive impact.The equilibrium between the naturalistic and harmonic reproduction of the image by Mantegna is achieved through perspective and anatomic details accomplished by the method of parallel projection.It was generally believed to have been painted between 1470 and 1480 by a mature Mantenga, and it arrived at Brera in 1824.In the Pinacoteca di Brera other works testify to the extraordinary artistic skills of Andrea Mantegna, characterised by a strenuous constancy and continuity of style: from the altarpiece of San Luca to the Madonna with the Cherubim and the altar backdrop of San Bernardino or the Madonna with Child, this latter work variously attributed to his circle.
(Raffaello, Cartone preparatorio per "La Scuola di Atene", 1509)
Where: Ambrosiana Gallery,
Piazza Pio XI, 2 - 20123 Milan.
This is the only surviving cartoon of Raphael's large fresco, “The School of Athens” ("La Scuola di Atene") commissioned by Pope Julius II.
This important drawing is made up of two sections which were joined in the late 18th century. They had been bought for the Library by Cardinal Federico Borromeo in 1626.
This work, created on paper, is very similar to the finished fresco version. However, the artist’s self-portrait, which appears at the far right of the finished fresco, is not yet present. Also, Heraclitus, (actually a portrait of Michelangelo) seated on a step in the centre of the composition, only appears in the finished version. In the fresco, Raphael incorporated portraits of his contemporaries in the guise of important historical figures.
This large (8 x 2.85 metres) and striking drawing corresponds to the lower part of the fresco in Rome. Obviously, the effect of the complete architectural setting, which makes up the background of the fresco in the Stanza della Segnatura of the Vatican Museum, cannot be appreciated from this preparatory work.
(Caravaggio, Canestra di frutta, 1599)
Where: Ambrosiana Gallery, Piazza Pio XI, 2 - 20123 Milan.
A basket of fruit. One has the impression of almost scenting the fragrance and tasting the flavour of these fruits, as if reliving the story behind this composition. The basket of fruit is in the foreground, a harmonious composition of fruit and leaves. It is placed on a table, off centre, almost unbalanced, as if it were about to fall.
It expresses the ephemeral nature of earthly things. The reds and browns of the fruit contrast with the bright, featureless background, which seems to evoke an almost divine light that models reflections and transparency, focusing the attention onto the foreground image.
(Leonardo da Vinci, Codex Atlanticus, 1478-1519)
Where: Ambrosiana Library, Piazza Pio XI 2, 20123, Milan.
The Codex Atlanticus is an extraordinary document by Leonardo da Vinci. The work is comprised of 1119 signed pages (gathered in 12 volumes that include 1750 drawings and 100 pages handwritten by Leonardo himself) and testifies to the artist’s eclectic interest of various aspects of reality; it includes drawings of war devices, sketches of bombardments and mortars, machines able to descend to the bottom of the sea or fly as well as studies on mechanics and sculpture. He showed an interest in the art of war, as well as in the geometry of bodies. The document also presents biographic notes, philosophical meditations and personal notes. The pages deal with various topics: anatomy, astronomy, botany, chemistry, geography, mathematics, mechanics, drawings of machines, studies on flying and architectural projects.
The name of the codex was associated with the atlas-like dimensions of the pages (64.5 x 43.5 cm); “Atlante” is the name used in library science to represent large-sized volumes. A six-volume replica of the Codex Atlanticus, published in Milan by Ulrico Hoepli, is kept at the Ambrosiana Library.
In 1796, the Codex – with other documents –was “transferred” to France by Napoleon and kept at the Biblioteque de l’Institut de France. It was later returned in 1815, thanks to an officer instructed to retrieve art pieces stolen by Napoleon.
(Michelangelo, Pietà Rondanini, 1564)
Where: Museum of Ancient Art - Castello Sforzesco, Milan
The Pietà Rondanini is considered to be the final sculptural masterpiece by Michelangelo.
The sculpture, as we see it today, is the final elaboration of an idea initiated, presumably, in 1552. Some of the features from the first work can still be easily identified: the smooth legs of Christ, his right arm broken off from the body and the face of the Virgin facing a different way, recognisable from an outline of the eye and nose on the left side of the head.
Around 1555 Michelangelo decided to significantly modify the composition: the figures assumed the actual lengthened shape in which Christ and the Virgin seem to mould into one in a pitiful embrace. The marble assemblage is placed on a Roman altar; the same upon which the sculpture was found when it was in the Rondanini Family collection.
The statue was purchased by the City of Milan in 1952 and first displayed in the Castle Museums in 1956, where it was placed at the end of the route through the Museum of Ancient Art, in a special area created to isolate Michelangelo’s final masterpiece.
(Piero della Francesca, Sacra Conversazione con la Madonna col Bambino, angeli e santi e il Duca Federico da Montefeltro, "Pala Montefeltro", 1472)
Where: Brera Art Gallery, Via Brera, 28, Milan.
The altarpiece is an astounding and high quality painting. The architectural elements that create the background of the scene are of great visual effect, but also reveal a great technical ability.
The iconography is typical of “Holy Conversations”. The principal figure, the Virgin, holding the child is at the centre of the scene. She is seated on a throne and gathered around her is a group of saints and angels. The altarpiece was commissioned in 1472 by Duke Frederick, who is portrayed in a suit of armour, kneeling in front of the Madonna.
The famous ostrich egg, positioned directly above the Virgin, is interpreted as the symbol of the birth of Christ. Following an ancient belief, in fact, the egg was said to have been fertilized by sun rays, an analogy of the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit.
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