Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Day two- Brera Gallery

Had the typical little free breakfast at the hotel- cafe Americano, juice, yogurt, some pastries (or in my case, rye crackers with nutella and jam) and then took off for the day's adventures. Our first stop was a little church I had read about called Santa Maria presso San Satiro, a typical Italian church in the sense that it incorporated bits of architecture from various periods, including the 9th, 12th, and 15th centuries. It is known for the altar area designed by Donato Bramante, in which he used a forced perspective to give the illusion that the apse extends back much further than the five feet that actually enclose it. It also had some very tasty grisaille ornamental painting on the walls, and an exquisite octagonal baptistery that was shown to us by a very friendly volunteer docent who was chatty and pleasant. It was a nice intro to the day. We then headed past the Piazza again on our way up the the Pinacoteca Brera, an art gallery housed in a former Jesuit monastery. It also houses an art academy founded in 1776, and the milling students in the courtyard made me feel quite at home. 

Altar of Santa Maria presso San Satiro, showing the compressed perspective that Bramante used to give the illusion of a deeper space

We went first upstairs to the libary, which had a very nice neo-classical ceiling and shelves holding all kinds of books including an original copy of Stuart and Revett's "Antiquities of Athens" (1762), a highly influential book in the revaluing of Greek architecture and ornament. I would have loved to open it, but that was not an option. So we headed into the galleries, which immediately started out with a bang with a whole row of panels of frescoes removed from some churches (including the one we visited earlier in the day). Photos were not allowed in here, but they were not really into enforcing the ban, so I got some good ones of various details and the mind blowing work of Carlo Crivelli, which somehow looked as fresh as the day it was made. They had a cool restoration lab that was behind plexiglas walls so you could check it out- unfortunately nothing was being worked on while we visited, but it looked very high tech. They had a lot of paintings i knew from art history; always interesting to see the difference in scale and texture of paintings that you only know from photographs. They hold Mantegna's Dead Christ, beautiful paintings by Bronzino and Bellini, and Piero della Francesca's mysterious "Holy Conversation", among other highlights.

Courtyard of the Palazzo di Brera. The ground floor is an art academy started in 1776

After we were done with looking, we went in to hear a band that had set up in one of the galleries. It was a big band made up of young musicians, and they were doing some kind of tribute to American blues and dixieland music. It was pretty funny hearing them playing and singing "When the Saints go Marching In"! We felt a bit trapped after song number 6, followed by a fairly long speech by the director, which we hoped was the end but turned out to be the intro to two more songs. Still, it was funny and fun, especially with the backdrop of two spectacular mural paintings by Bellini. We walked out humming "Saints" and perused the studios of the Academy in the hallways downstairs.

We headed back to our room again, emerging late afternoon after the heat to get some food at a nice serve yourself cafeteria that was in the giant galleria, which we cruised through once more before heading back slowly to our room and a welcome rest.
Spires of the Duomo of Milan

A little magical reflected sunlight- two minutes later this was gone!

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