The treasures of Ca ‘Granda, University of Milan

The treasures of Ca ‘Granda is the collection of the Ca’ Granda Policlinico Foundation that tells, through famous Lombard authors, an event that sees generosity at the forefront of the city. The route connects to the Festa del Perdono, an annual tradition that began in the 15th century which called citizens to make offers to the medical institution. The large collection of portraiture today bears witness to the wealthiest benefactors that have followed one another over the centuries and to an artistic heritage with a unique identity.

“I Tesori della Ca ‘Granda” is an exhibition space housed in via Francesco Sforza 28, home to the administrative offices and the Historical Archive of the Polyclinic of Milan. A historic hospital, founded in 1456 with the name of “Magna Domus Hospitalis” by the Duke of Milan Francesco Sforza, determined to win the favor of the Milanese, and which over the centuries has accumulated a precious artistic heritage, the result of bequests and charities.

The collection, recently open to the public, is located in the headquarters of the administrative offices and the Historical Archive of the Polyclinic of Milan in via Francesco Sforza 28, in the heart of the historic center. It is a path that develops in five rooms in which the protagonists of the history of Lombard art alternate: Giovanni Segantini, Francesco Hayez, Giuseppe Molteni, Mosé Bianchi, Carlo Carrà, the Pitocchetto, Filippo Abbiati, Emilio Longoni and Mario Sironi are some of the authors of the 23 portraits on display, for a period of time ranging from the 1600s to the 1900s. A great pride of this artistic heritage, in particular, is the Portrait of Carlo Rotta, the only example of this kind that the painter Giovanni Segantini performed in his life, on commission. On display, also five sculptures, including those depicting the Duke Francesco Sforza and San Carlo Borromeo, among the first benefactors in history. A reality that is also told through its scientific side: in addition to the works, a collection of medical instruments, used since the 19th century, will be exhibited. The exhibition, free and without reservation, will enjoy the reception and mediation service of the Touring Club.

The exhibition is spread over five permanent rooms in which 23 portraits from the 1600s to the 1900s are exhibited, executed by painters of the caliber of Giovanni Segantini, Francesco Hayez, Giuseppe Molteni, Mosé Bianchi, Carlo Carrà, Pitocchetto, Filippo Abbiati, Emilio Longoni, Mario Sironi. The highlight is the ‘Portrait of Carlo Rotta’ executed by Giovanni Segantini, the only example in the world of a portrait on commission created by the famous painter and rarely exposed to the public. Five sculptures are displayed alongside these portraits, including those depicting Duke Francesco Sforza and San Carlo Borromeo, respectively the founder and one of the first great benefactors of Ca ‘Granda.

To all this is added a temporary room in which thematic exhibitions will be exhibited. At the inauguration, the first two portraits of the Benefactors just made by Barnaba Canali and Romeo De Giorgi, chosen from the best young artists of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, will be visible. And again, art alternates with science with the display of portraits of the doctors of the Ospedale Maggiore and the health collections: a collection of medical instruments from the 800 onwards that have made the history of Medicine.

Over the centuries, the Benefactors of Ca ‘Granda have always been ordinary people, who donated according to availability:small sums, necessary tools for the hospital, but also foodstuffs such as eggs and poultry. Then there were those who donated very large sums, buildings, land, or even made the hospital universal heir of their assets: for them, as a sign of thanks, the Ca ‘Granda began in 1602 to make a gratulatory portrait, whose execution has always been entrusted to the most prominent or promising artists on the Lombard territory. Thus was born the “Picture Gallery of the Benefactors of Ca ‘Granda”, which today has 920 portraits and which is unique on a national level. Some of the most prestigious paintings have also traveled the world, guests of international exhibitions such as in New York and Tokyo. Today the Quadreria hosts, among others, masterpieces by artists such as Giovanni Segantini, Francesco Hayez, Mosé Bianchi, Carlo Carrà, Emilio Longoni, Mario Sironi.

The itinerary offers in one section the collections of history of medicine: one of the rare museums in this area existing in Italy and the only one in Lombardy belonging to a hospital (the ancient Ca ‘Granda, today the Policlinico of Milan). The instruments on display are grouped by disciplines, from obstetrics and gynecology (nucleus born with the Royal School of Obstetrics commissioned by Maria Teresa of Austria in the eighteenth century), to radiology. The transfusion is remembered with devices and syringes and by the mention of the establishment of the Blood Donors Group in 1930.

The instruments and equipment are flanked by portraits of hospital doctors and distinguished clinicians, to whom important discoveries in medicine and inventions in surgical technique are due. The second section of the museum presents the portraits of the benefactors of the Ca ‘Granda. The tradition, which began in 1602, continues to this day with works carried out on commission from the hospital to remember the most generous and famous supporters, and to encourage their emulation.

Among the 920 paintings in the collection, twenty works have been selected for the exhibition, significant by ages and themes, performed by renowned artists: from Pitocchetto to Hayez, from Segantini to Sironi. Five marble busts also suggest the relevance of the hospital statuary collection. The first room is intended for temporary exhibitions and currently houses the latest portraits, made in 2019 by the best students of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts.

The exhibition is a path that citizens closer to our history and our roots. Thanks to this philanthropy and to what the benefactors have given us, we will also be able to create the New Polyclinic, the first example of an almost entirely self-financed public structure “.

The exhibition itinerary is a unique opportunity to celebrate the historic alliance between the generosity of those who donate and the attention for the most fragile that characterizes our Hospital since its foundation. It is also a way to confirm the international role that the Polyclinic has in the field of medicine and research. Alongside the paintings, in fact, collections of medical and scientific instruments from 800 to today will be exhibited, with which our experts they have made school in the world. Tools that have saved lives, people, families: this is also a way of saying thank you.

Art collections
The cornerstone of the art collections of the Foundation is the famous Quadreria which contains the portraits of benefactors who with their generosity supported the hospital. These are paintings commissioned by the institution continuously from 1602 to today (there are over 920 paintings), whose authors are artists operating on the Lombard territory, among which Salomon Adler, Giacomo Ceruti known as “Il Pitocchetto”, Anton Francesco Biondi, stand out. Francesco Hayez, Giuseppe Molteni, Giuseppe Bertini, Domenico and Gerolamo Induno, Giovanni Segantini, Emilio Longoni, Gaetano Previati, Angelo Morbelli, Francesco Casorati, Mario Sironi, Massimo Campigli, Carlo Carrà Emilio Tadini, to name just a few. In addition to the inestimable artistic relevance, the Picture Gallery stands out for the complexity of its interpretative keys: historical, anthropological and social.

The hospital recognizes the honor of the portrait to its most generous benefactors; it is not infrequent the case of doctors who, after having dedicated their lives to caring for the sick in the hospital, remember him in their wills, or there is the possibility that relatives and admirers want to remember a young health care provider who died prematurely, or a distinguished clinical.

We know the faces of the doctors of the Hospital since the seventeenth century, when they were called “Physicists”

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In the nineteenth century there is no distinctive clothing, and often no connotation is given to the profession (shirts, instruments). It should also be borne in mind that the great innovations in the field of hygiene spread only from the second half of the century, with the discoveries of Ignàc Semmelweis, Joseph Lister, Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch.

In some cases the portrait is also an interesting document of the tools or context in which it operated in the nineteenth century.

The twentieth century is a century of revolutions in the medical field, and Milan is at the forefront in every field.

First time in the world, Occupational Medicine was born in the Lombard capital; the old Sforza Hospital and its cruise system are now considered obsolete, the new hospital is being pavilions and the buildings of the General Hospital stand; There is the need of a new decentralized hospital in a rapidly expanding city area, and the new Niguarda hospital is being built. In 1924 the University of Milan was founded in Milan, of which the Ospedale Maggiore houses the clinics, many distinguished professors direct the departments.

Even in the second half of the century there is no lack of eminent figures.

“Verbum caro factum est” Allegoria in memoria di un benefattore anonimo, Aldo Carpi, 1931/1933,
Portrait of Antonio Codognola, Scuola lombarda / Lombardy School, 1675/1699,
Portrait of Ambrogio Caponago, scuola lombarda, 1703,
Portrait of Carlo Dell’Acqua, Giuseppe Molteni, 1800/1829,
Portrait of Giuseppe Scotti, Eliseo Sala, 1872/1873,
Portrait of Domenico Quadrio, Amos Grancini, 1809/1811,
Portrait of Pietro Moscati, Giuseppe Sogni, 1824,
Portrait of Pietro Moscati, Giuseppe Sogni, 1824,
Portrait of Lamberto Parravicini, Francesco Valaperta, 1894,
Portrait of Angelo De Vincenti, Romano Valori, 1914,
Portrait of Giulio Rezzonico, Paolo Sala, 1916,
Portrait of Umberto Carpi de Resmini, Aldo Carpi, 1926,
Portrait of Ambrogio Bertarelli, Giuseppe Amisani, 1925/1929,
Portrait of Giovanni Ballerio, Carlo Carrà, 1928,
Portrait of Pietro Avoledo, Augusto Colombo, 1935,
Portrait of Carlo Baizini, Giuseppe Palanti, 1935,
Mario Donati con gli allievi, Roberto Fantuzzi, 1933,
Mario Donati con gli allievi, Roberto Fantuzzi, 1933,
Anfiteatro clinico dell’Ospedale Dermosifilopatico di Via Pace, 1937,
Domenico Cesa Bianchi with students, Attilio Andreoli, 1933,
Portrait of Carlo Forlanini, Aldo Carpi, 1911,
Portrait of Agostino Pasini, Umberto Brambilla, 1947,
Portrait of Achille Aliprandi, Luisa Baroni, 1940/1957,
L’equipe operatoria delle divisione Otorinolaringoiatrica dell’Ospedale, 1967,
Portrait of Amilcare Capello, Savino Labò, 1967/1968,
Portrait of Francesco Rosti, Renzo Biasion, 1988,
Portrait of Vittorio Staudacher, Roberto Sambonet, 1988,

Scientific collections
The collections of medical instruments of the Foundation represent an interesting and rare case of a collection developed within a hospital of ancient foundation, and are composed of over 2,000 pieces partially exhibited at the headquarters in Via Francesco Sforza 28.

The oldest materials come from from the ancient Spezieria: 150 majolica vases from the 17th and 18th centuries, bronze mortars and other objects.

Particularly valuable is the obstetric gynecological section formed by forceps, cranioclasts, pelvimeters and other instruments, which originates in the School of obstetrics created in 1760 by Maria Teresa of Austria and passed, in 1905, to the Clinical Institutes of Perfection where it was enlarged by Luigi Mangiagalli and Emilio Alfieri. A pathological anatomical museum rich in about 270 preparations (spoiled pelvis, stunted skeletons, teratological preparations) has been connected to this since its origin.

The activity of the Polyclinic is attested by surgical, urological, neurosurgical instruments, anesthesiological equipment, ophthalmological instruments and prostheses, Röntgen tubes, glassware and laboratory instruments (scales, microscopes, …), by different testimonials of the functions nursing and care as well as seventy-five wax models that document dermatological conditions.

The collections are constantly growing. The collaboration and help of doctors and staff is invaluable in finding and selecting materials, and in several cases it also leads to acquiring instruments personally collected or belonging to members of one’s family.

Ca ‘Granda
The Ca ‘Granda, formerly the headquarters of the Ospedale Maggiore in Milan, is a building located between via Francesco Sforza, via Laghetto and via Festa del Perdono, close to the basilica of San Nazaro in Brolo. Work of the Florentine architect Filarete, it was one of the first Renaissance buildings in Milan and had a large following throughout northern Italy. Today it is home to the University of Milan.

Ca ‘Granda is a great avant-gardist hospital in biomedical cure and research, with a millennial history, strictly tied to the milanese’s culture and society.

Ca ‘Granda is an extraordinary variety and richness of cultural heritage: the historical archive, the art collections, the bibliographical collections, and the medical instruments that open the perspective on Milan’s and Lombary’s inhabitants through the centuries.