A close coherence between home and collections, between rooms and works of art contained in it: this is the backbone of the rigorous collection and living project that the brothers Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi pursued in their home, inspired by the mansions of the sixteenth century Lombard.
For their palace they made use of numerous sources of inspiration: they cited and reworked examples of excellence to create a filtered Renaissance of nineteenth-century sensibility. In the rooms of the Bagatti Valsecchi house, under the watchful direction of Fausto and Giuseppe, the Renaissance took shape not only through the construction of the fifteenth and sixteenth century collections, but also through the accurate stylistic attunement of which every room in the house was the object. In the fixed furnishings period fragments were inserted (wall friezes, fireplaces, decorative elements, wooden ceilings) while to remedy any gaps present in the settings one intervened with the remaking in style.
Sala degli Armigeri
A solemn staircase leads from the Studio to the ground floor, to the entrance on Via Santo Spirito. In the current tour, this environment no longer serves as an entrance, but at the time when the house was inhabited this second monumental entrance allowed the apartments of the two brothers to be fully autonomous. Among the elegant fixed furnishings of the room, the nineteenth-century red marble washbasin stands out with a Renaissance fragment inside.
At the time of Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi, this room was the first reception area on the noble floor for those arriving from the entrance of Via Santo Spirito. With its antique paintings, carved furnishings, elegant door frames and two-tone marble flooring, it added to the richness of the Bagatti Valsecchi home. The room was also used as a study, in which the landlords used to retreat to read, receive visits or to treat the purchase of works for their home. A French window leads into the large loggia that is not currently included in the usual visit route, which faces on one side of one of the inner courtyards of the Palace, on the other side on Via Santo Spirito.
The cladding of this room is made up of four large panels drawn from a pair of tapestries produced in Brussels around 1570, depicting episodes from the life of the Persian king Cyrus. To the left of the large fireplace, a door now closed led to the office, where, through a dumbwaiter, meals arrived in the underlying kitchen on the ground floor. On the central table and in the four showcase furniture, antique glass artefacts and Renaissance ceramics are set up.
Gallery of Arms
In this long symmetrical environment at the Galleria della Cupola the two brothers exhibited the weapons and armor of their collection, one of the hallmarks of Lombard collecting. As in the rest of the dwelling, ancient specimens are placed side by side in style or integrated artifacts, so as to give the impression of being in an ancient armory. In addition to defensive tools such as shields and armor, the collection is composed almost exclusively of white weapons, that is, weapons complete with llamas; in the eyes of the two brothers they appeared, compared to the firearms, more functional to the evocation of the Renaissance that they were pursuing.
The great Hall is the largest room of the Bagatti Valsecchi house: to make this room more majestic, a real place of representation, the two brothers conceived a double-height room and adorned the ceiling with wooden coffers adorned with golden pine cones. An articulated lighting system makes the room shine in all its sumptuousness: eight large torch stands alongside the large central chandelier and four pedestal lamps in the corners of the room. Initially powered by gas, these chandeliers were all prematurely converted to electricity. Casa Bagatti Valsecchi was in fact one of the first private residences in Milan to be equipped with electricity, reaffirming Fausto and Giuseppe’s interest in technological innovations and the most futuristic inventions of his time.
The ticket office of the Museum is accessed, through a staircase with a beautiful wrought iron railing, on the noble floor of the Palace. From the gallery you enter the first room of Fausto’s apartment: although the reception rooms were common, both brothers had some personal rooms, which created two private areas within their home.
Bagatti Valsecchi Museum
The Bagatti Valsecchi Museum is a historic dwelling located in the heart of the Montenapoleone district , in the center of Milan , in the building called “Palazzo Bagatti Valsecchi”, purchased by the Lombardy Region in 1975. It is among the most important and best-preserved museum houses in Europe and it is part of the ” Case Museum of Milan ” circuit since October 2008.
Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi reviewed the typological richness of works of art and artifacts collected together with his brother Fausto, motivating the variety by virtue of the domestic cut of their collecting project to recreate a Renaissance residence. In this context, the same ancient artifacts collected from the passion of the two brothers became everyday objects, used in domestic and everyday life, losing the connotation of historical object.
Preserved in the respect of the nineteenth-century setting, the collections unfold from room to room: in the enveloping rooms of the museum house the antique tables of authors such as Giovanni Bellini, Bernardo Zenale, and Giampietrino find their place next to boxes in tablet, with wooden furnishings, in glass or ceramic artifacts. Beyond its intrinsic value, each work constitutes a piece of the coherent Bagatti Valsecchi project and contributes to defining its spectacular together.
Alongside the four-sixteenth-century artifacts, there are some exceptions to the rule: exemptions perhaps imposed by the limits of the antiquarian market or perhaps, in the case of particularly high-quality artifacts, from the understandable desire not to deprive oneself of works that would have been well figured within the Bagatti Valsecchi house.
With few exceptions, the collection of Bagatti Valsecchi paintings is composed of works on wood from the sixteenth and sixteenth century, mainly referring to the Tuscan, Lombard and, to a lesser extent, Veneto. The sumptuous domestic set-up complements works by great authors – the most famous of which is undoubtedly the Santa Giustina by Giovanni Bellini – to paintings by minor masters, sometimes referable to secluded areas such as the lariana area or the Bergamo valleys. The Neo-Renaissance frames are able to harmonize the works set up in the rooms and transform the doors of dismembered polyptychs – a typology well represented in the collection – into paintings that can be enjoyed by themselves, attenuating the identity of the compartment already inserted in a more articulated work.
Walled reliefs in the courtyards of the Palace or inserted as fixed furnishings inside the dwelling make up the most important nucleus of this collection. Despite the small group of works, problematic artifacts are not lacking both from the attributive point of view and from their chronological definition. The degree of awareness of the two Bagatti Valsecchi brothers with regard to works of which the nineteenth-century realization is still evident, as in the case of the Flagellation of Christ by Alceo Dossena.
The rich collection of furnishings is a fundamental component of the Bagatti Valsecchi collection and living project. Without any foreclosure the two brothers flank reconstitutions with antique fragments or period furniture with four-sixteenth-century furnishings, creating an environment where the overall effect is more important and convincing than the originality of the single piece.
This collection center is composed of liturgical objects and domestic artefacts: crosses, reliquaries, eucharistic vases are placed side by side with enamelled caskets or ancient cutlery, covering a period of time ranging from the Three to the Seventeenth century. The intent of the collection, which is not intended to be complete either from a chronological or typological point of view, is entirely functional to the decoration of the rooms, in which the various artefacts are expertly arranged.
The core of the Bagatti Valsecchi ceramics is mainly made up of sixteenth and seventeenth-century artefacts, although later works are not lacking. Many production centers are represented in a sort of mapping of the main Italian manufacturers: among others, Venice, Pavia, Ferrara, Faenza, Pisa, Montelupo, Urbino, Casteldurante, Pesaro, Deruta, as well as Rome, Gerace, Trapani, Burgio. Numerous pottery came from kits of ancient pharmacies dismembered during the nineteenth century. Compared to the Italian character of the collection, a group of lustres dating from the sixth to the seventeenth century, referable to Valencia and Manises, is an exception.
The collection of ivories by the Bagatti Valsecchi brothers, while collecting heterogeneous objects in chronology, origin and function, includes a compact nucleus of artefacts referable to the Embriachi, a workshop that dominated the production of bone and ivory objects in Italy between the 14th and 15th centuries. Fausto and Giuseppe’s intent was above all to create an antiquarian collection that was also an instrument for the reconstruction of the environment.
Inside the Bagatti Valsecchi residence, the collection of scientific instruments is set up in the Library, an environment for study and reading. In this room, measuring instruments, armillary spheres, an ivory microscope are displayed on the central table, while the superb pair of sixteenth-century globes stands out on their pedestals in style.
Weapons and armor
This rich collecting nucleus is entirely set up in the Galleria delle Armi, an environment of great impact, where the artifacts are arranged on ancient caissons while the arms in the auction and the swords make a fine show of themselves in the racks along the walls. Style and original artifacts stand side by side in the name of a spectacular ensemble effect.
In line with the domestic cut of the Bagatti Valsecchi stand, the glass collection is set up in the windows of the Dining Room; the artifacts are arranged alongside ceramic plates and risers creating a dense score, where works from different eras are freely combined with decorative efficacy. The two brothers’ predilections are oriented towards the Murano production, represented by glasses that are arranged along a wide chronological arc, from the four to the nineteenth century.