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|Milan - Brera Picture Gallery|
On a charming street in old Milan, Via Brera, stands the Brera Palace at number 28, flanked by other elegant l8th century places. It was built on the site of what was once the 14th century Monastery of the Humiliated Monks. When the order was suppressed, the monastery was taken over by the Jesuits (in 1572) who proceeded to install their schools in the building until 1591 when they commissioned the architect Martino Bassi to build a new and more grandiose college. Starting in 1615 the project was continued by Francesco Maria Richini, although it was not completed until 1773. Richini's great inventive-ness is best seen in the wonderful rectangular courtyard enhanced by a stately two storey colonnade of slender columns. The chiaroscuro effect, enhanced by the contrast of the filled and empty spaces, is attained by a double arcade of paired columns. In the center of the courtyard is a bronze statue that Antonio Canova executed in 1809 representing Napoleon. The emperor is idealized according to classical canons as a nude, young god, holding a sceptor in his right hand and a personification of Victory in his left. Across the courtyard we come to the double staircase which leads to the second floor and the entrance to the celebrated Painting Museum (Pinacoteca). The Brera, one of Italy's finest, has an outstanding collection covering especially the Lombard and Venetian schools. The museum was founded during the Napoleonic period, in 1803, for the most part as a result of the good offices of Francesco Melzi, vice president of the Republic, and the painter Giuseppe Bossi, who gathered works from suppressed religious institutions and secularized churches, all of which were supposed to be left to the Fine Arts Academy for teaching purposes. Opened to the public in 18O5, the museum collection was enriched by a century of acquisitions and bequests. Badly damaged by bombs in August 1943. it was rebuilt according to modern criteria by Modigliani, Portaluppi, and Wittgens who completed the renovations in 1950. The collection's range is amazing: from Luini's fresco cycle from Villa Pelucca to Gaudenzio Ferrari's from St. Maria della Pace, from Giovanni da Milano's exquisite 14th century panels to Veronese's huge 17th century canvases, from Tintoretto's dramatic Rediscovery of St. Mark's Body to Mantegna's understated Dead Christ, from the eight frescoes from the Panigarola House by Bramante and the same artist's Christ Bound at the Columns to the masterpieces by Raphael and Piero della Francesca. And to think these are only some of the famous names in Brera.
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