A Jewel of the Sixteenth Century, the Casa degli Omenoni
Location: Omenoni Hose or Palazzo Leoni-Calchi Palace
Address: Via degli Omenoni 3
What are eight giant Barbarians doing in the heart of Milan? They are the fruit of the fantasy of sculptor Leone Leoni, who lived in the Casa degli Omenoni with his son Pompeo, a sculptor as well. An Imperial artist in the service of Charles V and Philip II of Spain, Leoni came to the city in 1542, fleeing from Rome for having injured a jeweller and treasurer to the Pope in a fight. In Milan, he was named sculptor of the Zecca and he set up a building as a studio behind San Fedele. Eight majestic savages face onto the street from the building’s facade - they represent the races of defeated Barbarians and are inspired by the statues of ancient Rome. Some have likened them to the Prigioni of Michelangelo and, in fact, their creator knew the Florentine genius quite well. However, the magnificence of Casa Leoni was not limited to the facade - paintings by Tiziano, Correggio and Parmigianino, casts of ancient statues, a book of drawings by Leonardo - perhaps the Atlantic Codex? - as well as the “Quadrone dei Giganti” and a Venus by Buonarroti embellished the interior. A beautifully designed “little house”, full of “capricious inventions not to be found anywhere else in all of Milan”, as Vasari pointed out in 1566. It’s moment of glory was brief but intense - what remains of its maddening splendour are the giants overlooking the street.