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Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is one of the city’s finest galleries and contains Italy’s first real still life. Caravaggio’s “Canestra di Frutta” (Fruit Basket), as well as works by Tiepolo, Titian and Raphael. Also on show is Leonardo manuscripts.
On this side in 1609, Cardinal Federico Borromeo founded a fine public library, one of the first in Europe. Nine years later it was followed by the gallery, whose collection was donated by the cardinal. That collection continued to grow in the following centuries and it now spreads out over 24 rooms.



Collection of Cardinal Federico Borromeo
Room 1 puts together both Venetian paintings and those by Leonardo, favourites of Cardinal Federico for their pictorial value and for the religious intensity that inspired them, so as to render them models for the young painters gathering in the Academy. For example, in the “Adorazione dei Magi” by Tiziano, he admired “the vastness of things it contains [...] the colouring and the imitation of nature ". While In the “Sacra Famiglia con Sant'Anna” by Luini, he appreciated the drawing and the shaped parts, able to bring out respect and devotion.


Italian Painting of the XV-XVI Centuries
Besides the well-known “Musico” by Leonardo, the Art Gallery keeps important Florentine and Venetian art works, such as the “Madonna del padiglione” by Sandro Botticelli and the “Polittico di San Cristoforo” by Bartolomeo Vivarini.


Lombard Painting of the XV-XVI Centuries
The room keeps an important core of paintings by Leonardo and Lombard painters of the XV-XVI centuries, among which there are three masterpieces by Bramantino, the “Adorazione del Bambino” by Giampietrino and the “San Giovanni Battista” by Salaino.


Collection of Cardinal Federico Borromeo
In room 4 continues the exhibition of the paintings of the Venetian core coming from the collection of Cardinal Federico Borromeo. Near Tiziano, another protagonist of the sixteenth-century stands out: Jacopo Bassano. The disposition of the paintings is similar to the one presented by Borromeo in his Musaeum (1625): close to the “Madonna con il Bambino”, “Santa Caterina” and “Caterina e San Giovanni Battista”, which Federico ascribed to Tiziano, but that was afterwards attributed to Francesco Vecellio, are set the “Annuncio ai pastori” and the “Riposo durante la fuga in Egitto” by Bassano. Cardinal Federico remembers also the "clear place and under excellent light” which characterize the location of the paintings by Jacopo, "high painter of animals", according to his fame of that time, but also able of an "alive and true expression of the fatherly affection, of the old age and of the familiarity”.


Room of the Cardboard by Raffaello. Collection of Cardinal Federico Borromeo
Around the famous cardboard utilized by Raffaello to fresco “La Scuola di Atene” in the “Stanza della Segnatura” in Vatican, here are displayed the art works that document the relationship of Federico Borromeo with the figurative culture of the Renaissance. They are partially paintings of the Italian sixteenth-century that belonged to the collection and were donated on 1618 to the Ambrosiana. The nearby copies from Raffaello and Luini, that the Cardinal got made in order to use them as models for the painters of his time, held a particular meaning. With a similar intention, the Borromeo obtained the moulds of antique and modern statues that belonged to Leone Leoni and Marcantonio Presinari. Also the interest for the drawings of antiquarian character and for an art work such as the cardboard by Raffaello, are easily understandable related to the Academy founded by Federico on 1621 within the Ambrosiana, in order to start a new way in the Milanese religious art, as documented in his treatise “De pictura sacra” (1624).


Collection of Cardinal Federico Borromeo
The collection of Federico Borromeo included also a core of paintings by contemporary artists, mostly Flemish and Lombard. Among them arises Caravaggio with the famous “Canestra”, significantly inserted in the donation records (1618) at the end of the thick list of Flemish art works assembled under the title "gli originali dei paesi" (the originals of the countries), therefore, in this setting up, it was chosen to display them close to the art works group gathered around Jan Brueghel and Paul Bril. Borromeo remembered the other Lombards as "pittori men celebri" (less famous painters), but the choice of artists such as Morazzone and Cerano (Bookshop) is revealing about the orientation of the Cardinal in the figurative culture panorama of that time. The portrait of San Carlo made by Figino leads to the origins of the great season of Borromeo.


Collection of Cardinal Federico Borromeo
Here is displayed the core of the Flemish paintings collected by Cardinal Federico since his Roman stay at the end of the XVI century. The names that most frequently appear, are those of Jan Brueghel and Paul Bril. The last one and Borromeo should have met in 1593 in the circle of the Academy of San Luca, as the first one was Professor of painting and the second official protector. Maybe in that same year Federico put the two Flemish masters in touch. This gave birth to a strong association and a continuous acquisition of art works also when Cardinal Federico moved permanently to Milan, Brueghel went back to Antwerp, while Bril remained in Rome. The passion of Borromeo for this kind of art works shows a particular naturalistic taste, tinged with a singular encyclopaedic and religious tone, where the wonder for the vision arises from the immense quantity of things reproduced with lentiform care, often within extremely reduced spaces.


Medusa Room – Painting of the XIV-XVI centuries and Objects
Starting from the Medusa room you enter into the spaces acquired by the Art Gallery in 1928, when the Ambrosiana entered into possession of the San Sepolcro basilica and the annexed buildings. Their particular decorative connotation goes back to Prefect Giovanni Galbiati, who, between 1929 and 1931, mostly through the work of the architect Alessandro Minali, promoted their recovery melting learning and ornamental taste. These rooms, which remained closed since the post-war period, have been retrieved maintaining, where possible, their particular atmosphere.
The Medusa room (room 8) and the next one, the Columns room (9,) keep today the most important collection of objects of the Ambrosiana, besides some paintings of the Renaissance. The room gets its name from the fountain carved by Giannino Castiglioni.


Columns Room– Italian Painting of the XIV century and Objects
The room, that communicates in a suggestive way with the one on the upper floor (16), presents, among others, interesting Lombard paintings of the beginning of the sixteenth-century ascribed to Giovanni Agostino da Lodi, Cristoforo Ferrari and Giampietrino.
Also the Collection Sinigaglia of miniature portraits, arrived at the Ambrosiana in 1947, is displayed.


Venetian Painting of the XVI Century
The rooms 10 continue with the presentation of the Italian paintings of the sixteenth-century, with Venetian, Tuscan and Lombard art works. For what concerns the Venetian painting, we particularly point out two pieces by Giovanni Cariani, of singular iconographic density.


Italian Painting at the end of the XV and XVI centuries
The room presents important Italian paintings of the Renaissance and of the mannerist age, among which the “Madonna con il Bambino” by Michelangelo, ascribed to the so-called “Maestro della Madonna Manchester”, the “Annunciazione” by Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli and the “Orazione di Cristo nell'orto degli ulivi”, full of luminaristic hints.


Room of the Esedra – Venetian Paintingsof the XVI Century
In 1930-1931, the Prefect Giovanni Galbiati in occasion of the Virgilian second millennium, organized the setting up of the room of the Esedra, done by Alessandro Minali. The big mosaic, that reproduces the famous miniature of the Ambrosian Virgilio of Petrarca, was done by the painters Carlo Bocca and Giovanni Buffa and from the mosaicist Rodolfo Gregorini. The marble statues from Candoglia on the hemicycle of the grand stairway, are art works of the beginning of the nineteenth-century, realized by the sculptors of the Duomo factory Domenico Carabelli, Pietro Possenti, Gerolamo Argenti and Antonio Rusca.
In the room are displayed the paintings of the Venetian painters of the sixteenth-century with particular reference to the areas of Bergamo and Brescia by Moroni e Moretto.


Room Nicolò da Bologna – Italian and Flemish Painting at the end of the XVI and XVII Centuries
The room Nicolò da Bologna, also planned by the prefect Giovanni Galbiati in occasion of the reconstruction of the Art Gallery in 1930-1931, takes its name from the relieves in the two lunettes done by Domenico Buffa and Rodolfo Castagnini painted by Archimede Albertazzi: they represent “Le Scienze” (Sciences) and “Le Virtù” (Virtues), taken from the miniatures of the fourteenth-century by Nicolò da Bologna in the Ambrosian codex B 42 Inf. The room contains paintings of the late sixteenth-century and mostly of the Italian and Flemish seventeenth-century, with some art works by Fede Galizia, Guido Reni and Isaac Soreau.


Italian Painting of the XVII Century
This small but charming room, together with the adjoining ones, is the result of the reconstruction ordered from the Prefect Giovanni Galbiati in 1930-1932 and was planned as example of an elegant environment of Milan at the end of the eighteenth-century, beginning of the nineteenth-century. Above the gallery with a fake library, there are one hundred blazons of noble Lombard families, done by Archimede Albertazzi and restored by Francesco Manzoni after the damages done by the war. The stain-glass window with Saint Ambrogio is a work done by Domenico Buffa.


Lombard Painting of the XVII Century
The room displays important art work of the beginning of the Lombard seventeenth-century, with protagonists as such Giulio Cesare Procaccini, il Morazzone, Daniele Crespi and Giuseppe Vermiglio, recovered from the warehouses of the Ambrosiana.

Lombard Painting of the XVII Century
The exhibition of the Lombard seventeenth-century continues through the access and in this room that, in the centre, faces the underneath peristyle of the Columns room (9). Here are presented the art works by Giovanni Serodine, Daniele Crespi, Melchiorre Gherardini and Carlo Francesco Nuvolone.


Italian Paintings of the End of the XVII XVIII Centuries
Room 17 presents Italian paintings of the end of the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries of various origins and schools of painting: Venetian, Lombard, Genoese, Tuscan and Roman. Among the most significant art works, we mark: the “Viaggio di Rebecca alla fonte”, signed by the Genoese Giovanni Francesco Castiglione and dated 1689, the “Ritratto di giovane” by Fra Galgario and the “Presentazione di Gesù al Tempio” by Pietro Antonio Magatti.


Collection De Pecis
Room 18, completely restored from an architectural point of view, presents the most important core of the collection of Count Giovanni Edoardo De Pecis, donated to the Ambrosiana in 1827 and increased in 1828 and 1830 with the legacies of his sister Maria, widow Paravicini. It is a significant ensemble of Italian and Flemish paintings, partially located in other rooms of the Art Gallery, and of a prestigious collection of golden neoclassical little bronzes.


Italian Paintings of the XIX Century and the Beginning of the XX Century
La sala racchiude una selezione degli oltre duecento quadri ottocenteschi conservati nella Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, non più visibili dall'ultima guerra mondiale, ma recuperati nel presente allestimento. Si tratta soprattutto di opere dei pittori lombardi o attivi a Milano, caratterizzanti diversi momenti della cultura figurativa del XIX secolo. Si segnalano in modo particolare i ritratti di Francesco Hayez, il nucleo di dipinti di Mosè Bianchi e le presenze di Girolamo Induno, Giovanni Migliara ed Emilio Longoni.


The Peristilio
The Peristilio, that can be visited on request, represents one of the original spaces of the Ambrosiana (1603-1609) and appears, since the first drawings by the architect Francesco Maria Richino, as connection environment between the big rectangular room of the Borromeo Library, furnished with a rich series of Portraits of Saints, prelates and scholars, mostly of the eighteenth-century, and the ancient room of the Doctors. It was realized by Fabio Mangone or Lelio Buzzi.
At the centre of this small area, conceived under open skies, Federico put a fountain with the form of a palm, symbol of the knowledge, planned by Fabio Mangone and Giovanni Andrea Biffi and realized by master Olivieri (1616-1618). Still existing, it has not been put back in its original position to allow the sight of the Roman mosaic of the IV-V centuries, coming from via Passarella in Milan, donated to the Ambrosiana from the Marquis Alessandro Litta Modignani.
Between the columns and the walls there are many busts from the nineteenth-century of illustrious personages and patrons.


Flemish and German Painting in the XV-XVII centuries
Room 21 is composed of three small successive sets opened on the Medusa and Columns stairways (8 and 9). It presents an important group of Flemish and German paintings of the XV-XVII centuries, mostly coming from the Collection De Pecis, that enrich the original collection of Cardinal Federico Borromeo displayed in the nearby room 6. On the central big window, turned towards the reading room of the Library, it was kept the Dantesque stain-glass window by Giuseppe Bertini, which came from the present Room Borromeo (previously room Stocchetti) and placed here in 1929.


Sculptures and Frescos
The long corridor, that keeps the asset of the 1966 museum, collects the two thick cores of bas-relieves by Bambaia, coming from the sepulchral monument of Gaston de Foix and from another grave, the statue of Platon by Giovanni Antonio Piatti, and four frescos torn from the church of Santa Maria della Rosa, demolished in 1831 to enlarge the spaces of the Ambrosiana. To them there are added some sculptural finds of different ages - Roman, Romanesque and of the Renaissance – selected, in occasion of the previous setting up, from the lapidary material kept in the porch of the Court of the High Spirits.


Picture Gallery and Settala Museum
Temporarily set up as Picture Gallery, the room is assigned to receive the Settala Museum, first donated to the Ambrosiana and finally acquired in 1751, but up to now never unitedly exhibited. The rich collection, put into order during the XVII century by Manfredo Settala (1600-1680), constitutes an encyclopaedic collection with scientific character about exotic stuffed animals; skeletons of rare birds and fishes; shells and corals; crystals, semi precious stones and fossils; scientific instruments, watches and astrolabes; finds of pre-Columbian civilizations and other objects. In addition to that, there are furnishing, paintings, books and manuscripts that form a museum of the wonders of the seventeenth-century.


Sala Luini
The room, which is used as picture gallery and can be visited on request, keeps the Incoronazione di spine, a fresco done by Bernardino Luini in 1521/1522.Originally this environment was the seat of the “Luogo Pio di Santa Corona” ((Pious Place of the Holy Crown), founded in 1497 by monk Stefano da Seregno, a Domenican friar of Santa Maria delle Grazie, together with some Milanese nobles. It started as pure spiritual association bound to a presumed relic of Christ crown of thorns, but was soon dedicated to charitable activities, mostly medical assistance to the poors.

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