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Milan, the centre of fashion and business, is rich in Art and its heart is in gothic style.

A glance to history

The ancient Mediolanum, as it has been called by the Romans since the third century B.C. (a name of Celtic origin meaning "in the middle of the plains"), rose up around 400 B.C. It was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, and thanks especially to Saint Ambrose, it became one of the most active centers of the new Christian world.
Around the year 1000 it was already the most heavily populated city of Italy and became the most active center of the Padana Plain because of its manufacturing of wool, silk, metals and armaments.

Art and culture in Milan: The Sforzesco Castle

Photo credits

From the 14th to the middle of 15th centuries Milan came under the family Visconti and in the 1447 the Sforza family took the power and Milan became the capital of the dukedom of Milan. At the end of the 15th century Louis XII, king of France, took over the Dukedom. The French in 1535 gave way to the Spanish, who governed until the beginning of the 18th century. In 1707 Austrian controlled the city. With the exception of the Napoleonic power, the Austrians ruled until the celebrated "Five Days of Milan" (1848), a revolutionary independence movement that chased out the Austrians permanently. During the Second World War Milan was one of the cities which got most heavily hit by aerial bombardment.
Damages to historical monuments were especially serious; some were destroyed forever, but most were later restored. Since 1946 the recovery of industrial, economic and commercial activity has occurred rapidly, so that once more Milan has become the center of Italy's productive and economic life.

Many artists, intellectuals, and writers came to Milan and made that what it is today. If you want to know something about them,

[Visit the page about the famous people in Milan]

all the artistic periods that have influenced the city of Milan:

Gothic Art

The Gothic style was born in the 12th century in France and it continued til the 14th century. It spreaded to all Europe and it reached Italy too. In the 14th century Milan came under the Visconti family and it became the international centre of gothic art. The term "gothic" was used for the first time by Giorgio Vasari in the 16th century as a synonym of "barbarous", in contrast with the retrieval of the ancient greek–roman language of the Renaissance. The most important work of this period, in Milan, is The Cathedral, (the heart of the city) that remains also as the most famous example of gothic art in Italy.

Renaissance Art

The term "renaissance" indicate the art of the 15th and 16th centuries, and it was used for the first time by Giorgio Vasari the first art historian, to describe all the artistic changes, that occurred after the Middle Ages. In this way renaissance means a revival of the classical period, and a new interest towards the ancient Roman and Greek civilization. In fact the renaissane artists inspired themselves from the classical art to create something new. In the 15th century Milan came under the Sforza family and Ludovico il Moro, the ruler of the city, decided to surround himself by the most important artists of the period. In fact Leonardo da Vinci was appointed by Ludovico il Moro "pictor ducalis" painter of the duke and he created the greatest work of the Renaissance period "The Last Supper" which is located in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, while all his sketches are in the "Leonardo da Vinci Science and Technology Museum". Another important artist was Il Bramante, who came to the court of Ludovico il Moro and left many important works, such as architectural works, Santa Maria at San Satiro, Santa Maria delle Grazie, and paintings, "Christ at the Column" which is in the Brera Gallery.

More information about renaissance in Florence in www.aboutflorence.com

leonardo's masterpiece: The last supper

Baroque Art

The baroque art was born in the 18th century, as the artistic answer to the Protestantism. The term "baroque" was used in a disparaging way to indicate an exagerate and strange art. It is characterized by a strong contrast between light and dark, both in paintings and in sculptures. The great artist of this period was "Caravaggio" that is Michelangelo Merisi who was born near Milan. Caravaggio is the artist who best shows the dramatic sense of naturalism with his masterly use of lights contrasts. You can see some of his works in Milan for example: "Basket of Fruit" in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, and "Supper at Emmaus" in the Brera Gallery.

Romantic Art

After the Neoclassicism period, which revalued once again the classical age, the romantic art spreaded in all Europe. The term "romantic" indicates the interest for passion and irrationality, but above all the struggle between man and nature. In Milan the romantic period coincides with the Austrian domination, that lasted until a revolutionary indipendence movement, called the Five Days of Milan. An example of this art that you can appreciate in Milan is "The Kiss" a painting by Francesco Hayez, which is in the Brera Gallery.


The futurism movement was born at the beginning of the 20th century in Italy, to indicate the modernism period. The most important themes are: speed, war, and the city. The founder of futurism was Filippo Tommaso Marinetti who wrote the "Manifesto Futurista" published in "Le Figarò" in 1909, and he described Milan as "grande... tradizionale e futurista". For this reason Milan became the centre of the futurist movement and many artists left their works there. Examples of futurist art can be seen in Milan by some of the most important painters such as: Umberto Boccioni: "Autoritratto", or "La cittá che sale" in the Brera Gallery.

Contemporary Art

Nowadays Milan continues being an important centre of art, but above all Milan is a city which always look to the future, so contemporary art has a great importance. If you are interested in contemporary art you can't miss the expositions located in:

PAC (Padiglione Arte Contemporanea)

The expositions concern the 20th century and the international art of nowadays. It is the most important centre of contemporary art in Milan. In the past, it hosted very interesting artists expositions about the post war period and now there are thematic expositions too, for example about the different movements of 20th century italian art and about the main contemporaries european movements.

Address: Milano – via Palestro 14
Phone: 02/76009085

Web: www.comune.milano.it/pac


CIMAC (Civico Museo Arte Contemporanea)

Another place where you can appreciate contemporary art is: CIMAC, "Civico Museo Arte Contemporanea". CIMAC shows italian art of the 20th century and of the post–war, but it is known because it owns the best collection about futurism especially the one of Boccioni. However you can find De Chirico works too, for those who love "Surrealism", Carrà, Sironi, Giorgio Morandi, Filippo de Pisis. The collection is divided into three periods:

  1. Boccioni and the Italian Futurism

    This collection shows some of Boccioni most famous works: "Stati d'animo", "Dinamismo di un corpo umano", "Il bevitore" "Elasticità", (paintings) and "Forme uniche di continuità nello spazio"(statue). Other artists of this period are Giacomo Balla Mario Sironi, and Carlo Carrà who all belong to the futurism movement.

  2. Italian Art of the 20th century

    In this collection you can find works of Amedeo Modigliani, "Ritratto di Paul Guillaume" De Chirico, "Il Figliol Prodigo" "Combattimento di gladiatori". Besides, there are works that belong to lombard mouvements: "Chiarismo" and "Astrattismo di Rho". The Jucker collection is very important and it shows some Picasso's works "Les demoiselles d'Avignon" or some Braque's ones, "Port Mion".

  3. Italian Art of the Post War

    This collection hosts only the Italian Art and the one of Lucio Fontana is gorgeous: you can see all the works of his career, ceramics, earthenware, and his works in stone and pajettes. Another artist whose works are in this collection, is Fausto Melotti with his plaster sculptures, and Piero Manzoni. You can also appreciate works that belong to the Italian Pop Art for example the ones of Franco Angeli, Lucio del Pezzo, and many others. An important section is given also to the "arte povera" and to the paintings of the the 80s.

Address: Palazzo Reale, p.zza Duomo, 12
Phone: 02/62083219

For further information about all you can visit in Milan concerning art and culture, have a look at:

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