Historical Romanticism Collection, Milan Modern Art Gallery

Neo-Historism, also known as Neo-Historicism, comprises artistic styles that draw their inspiration from recreating historicist styles or artisans. This is especially prevalent in styles used in revival architecture. Through combination of different styles or implementation of new elements, Neo-Historism can create completely different aesthetics than former styles. Thus it offers a great variety of possible designs.

In the history of art, the 19th century saw a new historicist phase marked not only by a reinterpretation of classicism but also of the stylistic eras that succeeded it: Neoclassicism and then Romanticism, itself considered a historicist movement. In architecture and history painting, which increasingly painted historical subjects with great attention to accurate period detail, the global influence of historicism was especially strong from the 1850s onwards. The change is often related to the rise of the bourgeoisie during and after the Industrial Revolution.

The Romanticism aims at faithful representation of deep and touching emotions, while romantic attribute is extended to many collateral phenomena of the visual arts, romantic is all that has an air of unlikely, unreal and fantastic, everything that is opposed to academic art defined as forced, artificial dogmatic and unimaginative.

A romantic painting is easily recognizable because it makes extensive use of natural landscapes exterminated and violent. It is important that man is links him to the romantic theme of the exile. “In heroic solitude, man is absorbed in the contemplation of the infinite and his tragic greatness stands before the symbolic power of the forces of nature…”

The greatest Italian painter of the 1800s trained in Rome, where he arrived from his native Venice, in an artistic scene dominated by Canova. After having moved to Milan, he soon became head of a new painting current: Historical Romanticism. The works on display here bear witness to his considerable talent in portraying illustrious men and women. The magnificent picture of Matilde Juva Branca, or the two portraits of Morosini as a child and young woman, or finally the classic portrait of Alessandro Manzoni allow viewers to appreciate his knack for psychological introspection and his skillful, Titian-inspired use of color, thus proclaiming Hayez a portrait artist who could stand his own ground with his French peer, Ingres.

Portraiture after Hayez
On display here are some examples of the most important portrait artists active in Lombardy around the mid-1800s, who all partake in Hayez’s teachings, though each would contribute in his own manner. Giuseppe Molteni is unequalled in his virtuous rendering of accessories and clothing whereas Carlo Arienti seems more similar to the psychological intensity and essentialism of the Venetian master. New, more explicitly Romantic paths are paved by painters like Cherubino Cornienti and Mauro Conconi: the latter, who initially trained with Hayez, executed the portrait of Giovanni Juva, husband to Matilde Juva Branca, depicted by Hayez and on display in the previous room.

Durini Collection
In this small room, formerly a bedroom, visitors will admire part of the rich collection Count Alessandro Durini, once an illustrious figure in Milan, donated to the Civiche Raccolte d’Arte. The works cover a lapse of time, from the 16th to the 19th century. Among the paintings and sculptures from the 1800s note the numerous watercolors made by the Count himself, who was passionate about painting. The artists on display are the most celebrated of the time: Giuseppe Bertini, Mosè Bianchi, Paolo Troubetzkoy, Emilio Agnati.

The Ballroom is one of the most important and best preserved examples of Napoleonic architecture in Milan. It reflects a renewed taste, if compared to the interiors on the ground floor, which instead are decorated with more moderate elegance, typical of early Neoclassicism in Milan. The decorations are inspired by ancient plasticity, the four overdoors in stucco are by Grazioso Rusca, a sculptor active in the most important worksites at the time, and the precious wooden flooring based on a design by Giuseppe Maggiolini all make this room a perfect combination. Today it hosts encounters with the public, occasionally organized by the Modern Art Gallery. This room, at the center of the Villa, is also the only hall overlooking both sides of the building: on the one side is the courtyard of honor along Via Palestro, while on the other is the romantic garden.

Historical Romanticism
Historical painting during the second-half of the century diverges from the work of Hayez to experiment with new possibilities, full of never-before-seen comparisons with reality and a vast use of national history themes dealing with a rapidly changing society. From Eleuterio Pagliano, who draws upon the successful theme of artists from the past in his Death of Tintoretto’s Daughter to the esoteric Cleopatra by Mosè Bianchi, including new approaches to color and technique by Federico Faruffini, with his stunning Girl Reading, up to the Medieval Scene by the Macchiaiolo artist, Vincenzo Cabianca. Sculpture, as well, was changing, with examples such as the Girl Reading by Pietro Magni and the Girl Writing by Giovanni Spertini, aiming to modernly interpret reality.

Parnassus Room
In this lavish room, once a dining hall, visitors may admire the grand fresco commissioned by Viceroy Eugene of Beauharnais to Andrea Appiani. The work is framed by ancient-style decorations and two stucco lunettes with playing putti, by the artist Grazioso Rusca. This fresco, completed in 1811 and inspired by the Greek scholar Luigi Lamberti, portrays Apollo on Mount Parnassus, in the company of the nine muses. This was the artist’s final known work, and shows he looked with interest upon the Parnassus painted by Raphael in the Vatican, which was a model that had already been successfully offered in a fresco by Anton Raphael Mengs in the Villa Albani in Rome, a genuine manifesto of Neoclassical reform in art.

Dining Hall Waiting Room
This small room begins with the previous one through a slender diaphragm made by two isolated columns: in fact, this is the waiting room to the dining hall, with which it shares the same rich decorative cycle. The spectacular work portraying the episode in Dante of Paolo and Francesca is by Alessandro Puttinati, a sculptor who was one of the first to embrace Romanticism, but who returns in this late sculpture of his to the classicism and formal purism of his youth: there is an explicit reference to the Hebe by Canova and the Baroque sculptures of Bernini.

Genre Painting
The Induno brothers stand out as two of the most influential artists in the transition from academic painting, with its codified and traditional language, to a new way of approaching reality. Both artists devoted themselves with this renewed spirit to history painting, with episodes from the war for independence in which Gerolamo had actively participated, and to the multiform universe of genre painting. The works on display here stem from this successful and appreciated painting theme: alongside conventional subjects (Antiques Dealer, Refugees Fleeing a Village in Flames) we find themes with new social meanings and depictions of the lower classes (Seamstress School, Vivandiere, Cripple Playing the Mandolin, Hurdy-gurdy Player).

Nineteenth-century Collection
This collection began to take shape in 1861, when lawyer Fogliani – executor for the sculptor Pompeo Marchesi’s will – wished to donate to the City of Milan this artist’s collection made up of celebrated works from Canova to Marchesi himself. This was the first of many donations that would enrich the Municipality with art that, in 1903, would be gathered together in a Contemporary Art Gallery. In fact, starting in 1865 – with Count Gian Giacomo Bolognini’s endowment – up to an important addition in 1902 with works by professors and students from the Brera Fine Arts Academy and Picture Gallery, the modern art collection grew to such an extent it was separated from the ancient art collections. Inaugurated in 1877 in the Public Gardens Hall, the works remained here until 1903 when, with the addition of the National Archeological Museum, a new venue was found in the Sforzesco Castle: the Modern Art Gallery was born that year, as an independent section.

Right from the start, the Gallery, intended for the City, has hosted and enhanced local works and masterpieces thanks to endowments and donations. This bears witness to the expectations and recognition of this Museum on the part of citizens, who are also associated with other institutions: the Society for Fine Arts which, from 1843, purchased on a regular basis from art exhibitions, especially those at Brera. These works were subsequently divided among members and donated to the Gallery.

In 1920, when the State gave Villa Reale to the City of Milan, the Modern Art Gallery found its definitive location. That same year, the collection grew thanks to a donation by Vittore Grubicy De Dragon (with works by Giacomo Campi, Giovanni Carnovali, Giovanni Costa, Tranquillo Cremona, Federico Faruffini, Silvestro Lega, Filippo Palizzi, Gaetano Previati, Daniele Ranzoni, Giovanni Segantini) and, in 1921, with sale by public tender, The Fourth Estate by Pellizza da Volpedo entered the Gallery’s collections.

If for decades Villa Reale co-existed with other institutions (for example, the Naval Museum or as a venue for civil weddings), which limited the growth of its collections, since 2006 it has been the sole and exclusive showcase for the Modern Art Gallery and its activities.

Galleria d’Arte Moderna – Milano
From 1903 the Galleria d’Arte Moderna preserves the modern art collections of the City of Milan, an artistic heritage of about 3,500 works. The collections are displayed from 1921 within the Villa Reale, one of the masterpieces of milan’s neoclassical era. Designed by the architect Leopoldo Pollock, it was built between 1790 and 1796 as the house of the earl Lodovico Barbiano di Belgioioso. Villa Reale later became the residence of the Viceroy Eugenio di Beauharnais, stepson of Napoleon.

Among the undisputed protagonists of the Milanese and Italian art history present in the collection there are Antonio Canova, Andrea Appiani, Francesco Hayez, Tranquillo Cremona, Giovanni Segantini, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Giovanni Boldini, Medardo Rosso, Gaetano Previati.

Thanks to private collections and to the donations of important families, such as Grassi and Vismara, the artistic heritage of the Gallery has been enriched with masterpieces of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The exhibition activity of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna dialogues with applied art, the contemporary languages and the thematic analysis of artists present in the permanent collection.

What makes Milan’s Modern Art Gallery of international stature is the value and quality of the works on display and housed here: Francesco Hayez, Pompeo Marchesi, Andrea Appiani, Tranquillo Cremona, Giovanni Segantini, Federico Faruffini, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Antonio Canova, Daniele Ranzoni, Medardo Rosso, Gaetano Previati are some of the important artists present, as they are undisputed protagonists of Art History for both Milan and Italy. Their works represent art as it unfolded from the 18th to 19th centuries, in particular the current that originated in the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera and slowly took hold even beyond national borders. Thanks to 20th-century art collectors and donations by some prominent families (Treves, Ponti, Grassi, Vismara, for example), over the years these masterpieces have enriched the Gallery’s art heritage and confirmed its fundamental mission of perpetuating the diffusion of culture. Visitors can admire in the Villa’s halls works by Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, Giovanni Boldini, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and other key players on Italy’s 20th-century art scene.