Exploring the masterpieces of Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan

Discover the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan: an outstanding collection of paintings from some of Italy's most famous artists and masterpieces in the history of art.

July 16, 2018

Pinacoteca di Brera, also known as “Brera Art Gallery,” is Milan’s main public paintings gallery. It is the home of some of the oldest painting collections in Italy. This gallery has preserved some of the famous artists’ finest pieces.

Photo Credits: Dario Polimeni- Flickr


Historical Background and Establishment.

Dating back to the 14th century, the gallery was built on the remains of a dilapidated Umilati monastery. Initially, the Jesuits – a congregation of Catholic evangelists – used it as a school. During this time, Francesco Maria Richini oversaw its rebuilding. The Jesuits established the Braidense National Library and an Astronomical Observatory, which the gallery continued hosting even after their dispersion. In 1776, after the Jesuits’ dispersion three years before, the building was converted to an art academy, with Giuseppe Parini as its first dean. During this time, the academy was provided with its first collection of casts. These casts were intended for improving the learning standards, and nobody anticipated that they would be the first collection in a renowned gallery centuries later.
Between 1778 and 1807, the academy received its first painting collection which marked the Napoleonic era. Raphael’s Sposalizio’s famous painting, “The Marriage of the Virgin” was the key painting in the early collection. The academy widened its cultural scope, and this was a hallmark in its enriched collection to date. At around 1805, under the leadership of Giuseppe Bossi, the Academy initiated a series of annual exhibitions which were fundamentally a counterpart to the “Paris Salons.” The exhibition would be competitive, and awards were presented to the winning artists. The gallery preserved some artistic works from these exhibitions, and they contributed to the gallery’s rich bank. Most of them are still available to date.


Famous Pieces

The gallery hosts a collection of over 500 artistic works, but a few of them have been talked about for centuries. Some of them include:

  • The Lamentation of Christ by Andrea Mantegna – It’s said that Mantegna completed it between 1475 and 1501. It portrays Saint John, Saint Mary, and Mary Magdalene watching over the body of Christ, which is supine on a marble slab. It has been said to elicit deep emotions among people who have visited it.
  • The Marriage of the Virgin by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino – In 1504, Raphael completed this depiction of the marriage of Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Joseph. The painting has been in the gallery since 1806, after changing custody a few times.
  • The Madonna with the Cherubim by Andrea Mantegna – This painting depicts a woman surrounded by many babies, holding a nude baby. Much of the painting has not been significantly put on record, but it is a real spectacle to admire from centuries ago.
  • The Brera Madonna by Piero della Francesca – Francesca did this painting between 1472 and 1474. It depicts the Virgin sitting on a throne with a child in the middle and surrounded by “a delegation of angels and saints.” The background is an artistically developed church apse which makes the painting more of creative art.
  • The Kiss by Francesco Hayez – This is arguably one of the most famous artistic paintings in the gallery. The reason behind its fame is not precisely defined. Maybe it’s because one of the most creative and renowned romanticism artists drew it, or it could be because it depicts a romantic and passionate moment of all time. Francesco painted it in 1859, and it was donated to the gallery after his death.

Pinacoteca di Brera is one of the richest galleries in Milan, Italy. It is a proud art hub with spectacular artistic paintings and drawings that have been progressively collected over the decades and centuries. It hosts guests and delegations for guided shows around the collections.

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