The Pinacoteca of Brera, the Italian Louvre of Italy, Called for by Napoleon
Schedule: Tue - Fri 9.30 am - 6.30 pm
Tickets: Free admission with reservations required on brerabooking.org
Location: Pinacoteca di Brera
Address: Via Brera 28
An imposing figure, its muscular body in bronze, welcomes visitors in the courtyard of honour of the Pinacoteca of Brera - it is Napoleon Bonaparte, given the perfect resemblance to Mars the Peacemaker by Canova. Crowned as King of Italy, the ruler immediately wanted to give the capital city of his new kingdom, Milan, a modern museum. The Revolution was a recent event and illuminist ideas made their way across Europe, following the French flag - making science, culture and beauty accessible to all was at the top of the list and museums were a privileged vehicle for moving the people ever-towards progress. Meanwhile, the masterpieces confiscated from the churches and convents of the Belpaese overflowed from the coffers of the revolutionary State. In Milan, the glorious Palazzo di Brera, where Maria Teresa of Austria had already placed the Fine Arts Academy and the illustrious Braidense Library, was chosen to house a great number of these works. The Emperor intended that Brera would be unlike other museums, but rather an Italian version of the Louvre as can be seen in the universal nature of its collections, capable of transcending mere local schools of art and the collections of court. Precious alter-pieces came from Emilia and the Marche, while the grandiose textiles of Venetian masters gave the Pinacoteca a monumental aspect. Thanks to an exchange with the collections of Paris, Milan was enriched by Flemish paintings, including masterpieces by Rubens and Van Dyck. But there was still something missing - a great work to become a symbol of the museum. The Marriage of the Virgin by Raphael was chosen - the Emperor’s favorite painter, as well as of the other neo-classical artists of his age. Along with the celebrated piece, Milan still holds the decree signed by “Napoleon, Emperor of France and King of Italy” which, after long negotiations, gifted Brera with one of its most beloved masterpieces.