Milan, Lombardy, and the Lakes Sights

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Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Gallery)

Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Gallery) Review

The collection here is star-studded even by Italian standards. The entrance hall (Room I) displays 20th-century sculpture and painting, including Carlo Carrà's (1881–1966) confident, stylish response to the schools of cubism and surrealism. The museum has nearly 40 other rooms, arranged in chronological order—so pace yourself.

The somber, moving Cristo Morto (Dead Christ) by Mantegna dominates Room VI, with its sparse palette of umber and its foreshortened perspective. Mantegna's shocking, almost surgical precision—in the rendering of Christ's wounds, the face propped up on a pillow, the day's growth of beard—tells of an all-too-human agony. It's one of Renaissance painting's most quietly wondrous achievements, finding an unsuspected middle ground between the excesses of conventional gore and beauty in representing the Passion's saddest moment.

Room XXIV offers two additional highlights of the gallery. Raphael's (1483–1520) Sposalizio della Vergine (Marriage of the Virgin) with its mathematical composition and precise, alternating colors, portrays the betrothal of Mary and Joseph (who, though older than the other men gathered, wins her hand when the rod he is holding miraculously blossoms). La Vergine con il Bambino e Santi (Madonna with Child and Saints), by Piero della Francesca (1420–92), is an altarpiece commissioned by Federico da Montefeltro (shown kneeling, in full armor, before the Virgin); it was intended for a church to house the duke's tomb. The ostrich egg hanging from the apse, depending on whom you ask, either commemorates the miracle of his fertility—Federico's wife died months after giving birth to a long-awaited male heir—or alludes to his appeal for posthumous mercy, the egg symbolizing the saving power of grace. Room XXXVIII houses one of the most romantic paintings in Italian history. Il Bacio by Francesco Hayez (1791–1882) depicts a couple from the Middle Ages engaged in a passionate kiss. The painting was meant to portray the patriotic spirit of Italy's Unification and freedom from the Austro-Hungarian empire.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Via Brera 28, Brera, Milan, 20121 | Map It
  • Phone: 02/72263264
  • Cost: €10 general admisison, €12 during special exhibitions
  • Hours: Tues.–Sun. 8:30–7:15; last admission 35 mins before closing
  • Website:
  • Metro: Montenapoleone or Lanza.
  • Location: Milan
Updated: 03-07-2013

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