Symbols of the history of Milan, the buildings that together form the architectural complex that houses the Galleries were designed by leading Italian architects between the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century.
The section of the Galleries devoted to the nineteenth century begins in palazzo Anguissola Traversi, a splendid residence built between 1775 and 1778 by the Ticino-born architect Carlo Felice Soave for Count Antonio Traversi. The main façade overlooks the garden and is therefore currently visible from inside the exhibition venue.
This architectural treasure, with the art works it houses, stands as a fitting testament to business spirit of Milan, enterprising in the arts and in culture. The wishes of Count Anguissola, masterfully interpreted by Soave, are comparable to what would be asked today of the most sought-after international architects. The palazzo not only launched a young talented architect, on that occasion, but also all of the artists who executed the interior decorations of Palazzo Anguissola, leading exponents of Milanese craftsmanship. In fact, the interior is a triumph of rooms, each with a different decorative theme, featuring gilding, faux marbles and bronzes, stucco and mirrors.
The end of the eighteenth century heralded, with ever increasing clarity, the split between architectural and interior design, and it is precisely this different idea of the value of interiors that is said to have revolutionised the nineteenth century home, where not only does the decorative style change, but even the manner in which it was executed.
In fact, in the nineteenth century wing of Palazzo Antona Traversi and of Palazzo Brentani, built a few decades later, at the beginning of the 19th century, the internal structure and decoration had radically changed, moving from a noble, aristocratic feel to a more practical middle class one, which would continue to evolve until today.
In 1817, the Antona-Traversi family bought the palazzo, renovated by Luigi Canonica with the construction of the building facing Via Manzoni. The Swiss architect was also responsible for the Scalone d’onore staircase leading to the first floor, the square courtyard with rounded corners and the façade.
On the street-facing side, are eleven medallions with busts of leading figures from the history of Milan, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Antonio Canova, Pietro Verri, Cesare Beccaria, Giuseppe Parini and Alessandro Volta.
The new section of the Galleries, which presents the twentieth century art works from the Intesa Sanpaolo collections, is housed in the palazzo historical premises of Banca Commerciale in Piazza della Scala.
Erected in the beginning of the last century according to a design by Luca Beltrami, it blends in seamlessly with the group of pre-existing buildings, particularly with palazzo Marino and Teatro alla Scala, from which it borrows some architectural features.
The interiors are the work of a different hand, that of the engineer Giovan Battista Casati, who could allow himself greater freedom than in an exterior that could not indulge in excessive eclecticism within the scope of the whole. The same freedom which was partly exercised in the subsequent development of the complex towards piazza San Fedele, following the bank’s new acquisitions, and the work of architect Portaluppi.