The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana

Funded in 1618 by Federico Borromeo, after his return from Rome, where he collected a number of fine paintings, sculptures, etchings, printings and drawings, which he donated to the Library. The Cardinal didn’t only want to show his private collection, but he also had a didactic purpose, i.e. he wanted to give samples of the finest works of art to whoever had an aptitude for art, regardless of their economical status and possibility to be educated. In 1621 indeed, he opened an Art Academy to teach painting, sculpture and architecture.

The museum nowadays houses an amount of important paintings by renowned artists such as Botticelli, Bramante, Caravaggio, Luini, Titian, the Leonardesque school and many others.

But there are at least three great masterpieces that are worth visiting: first of all the preparatory drawing for the “School of Athen” by Raphael, that he made for the famous fresco of the “Stanza della Signatura” in the Vatican, where he was invited to work by the Pope Julius II. Raphael was only 25, he was still unknown and he didn’t have a long experience, nonetheless he demonstrated what kind of artist he was, and the Pope was amazed by the magnificence of the fresco, which shows many philosophers as well as artists in conversation with one another, thus embodying perfectly the classical spirit of the High Renaissance. The second great masterpiece is “The Basket of Fruit” by Caravaggio, painted around 1599, which Federico Borromeo considered the best example ever of still life.

Last but not least at the end of the itinerary the visitor will find the “Portrait of a Musician” by Leonardo da Vinci – the only portrait housed in Milan by the great genius of the Reinassance – as well as his “Codex Atlanticus“, the sketches, drawings and notes jotted down by Leonardo during his life. The first is located in the ancient chapter house of the Santa Corona confraternity, with a magnificent fresco by Bernardino Luini, whereas the second is housed in the so-called Sala Federiciana, the 17th-century library room, that is still fully original.

  • Duration 1 ½ hours
  • Points of interest: The Ambrosiana Painting Gallery; The Ambrosiana Library; the Roman Forum; The Crypt of Saint Sepolcro