Constructed by the year 1720 for Giuseppe Brentani, the building was occupied by the family presumably until the beginning of the 1800s, when another Giuseppe – grandson of the original owner – resided there.
In 1827, the Greppi family succeeded the Brentani family, making it their own aristocratic abode.
The prominent figure of this family was Antonio Greppi (1722-1799), a leading figure in economy, politics and culture in Habsburg Milan in the latter half of the 1700s.
It was he who decided to change the face of Palazzo Brentani, thanks to a collaboration with architect Luigi Canonica, who was very much in vogue at the time.
Here are some of the interventions commissioned by the Greppi family:
- changes to the façade on the Corsia del Giardino (now Via Manzoni)
- the addition of clypeus portraits with busts of illustrious figures, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Antonio Canova, Pietro Verri, Cesare Beccaria, Giuseppe Parini and Alessandro Volta
- the design of the square “cloister” with rounded corners and stately Doric columns. This courtyard, following the intervention of architect Michele De Lucchi in 2011 , now constitutes the distributive hub for the 19th-century collections of the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan.
Palazzo Anguissola Antona Traversi
“Perhaps the most admired house in Milan.”
So stated Luigi Zucoli in 1841, speaking of Palazzo Anguissola Antona Traversi – the oldest of the three buildings that make up the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan.
It was Count Antonio Carlo Anguissola who, upon his approaching marriage to Bianca Busca Arconati Visconti, commissioned the renovation of the residence, the origins of which date back to the 16th-century.
The interventions, by architect Carlo Felice Soave of Lugano, were carried out between 1775 and 1778, transforming the building into one of the most elegant in the city, especially admired for its innovative and sophisticated apartments and decorative elements.
The palazzo represents one of the most significant buildings of Lombard Neoclassicism, in both its architectural design and ornamentation.
Today, as it did then, the main façade faces the garden. It is subdivided into a central section, rusticated up to its string-course, as well as two narrower wings, set slightly back and completely rusticated. The interiors have maintained many of the original decorations, with gilding, faux marble and bronze, plasterwork and mirrors predominating. In Palazzo Anguissola, the opulence and elegance of the interiors were noted and admired by observers of the day, who recognised them as happily adherent to the then-new Neoclassical tastes.
In 1817 the palazzo was sold to lawyer Giovanni Battista Traversi, a figure of high standing in early 19th-century Milanese society, who in 1829 employed Luigi Canonica – the most renowned architect of the time – to redo the Via Manzoni façade, the grand staircase and the cloister. The latter element, today closed off by a glass wall, houses Arnaldo Pomodoro’s sculpture Disco in forma di rosa del deserto (“Disc in the Shape of a Desert Rose”).
With the transformation of the building’s intended use, Palazzo Anguissola Antona Traversi became the ideal place to house one of the highlights of the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan: the collection of bas-reliefs by Antonio Casanova. The 13 pure white plaster bas-reliefs harmonise perfectly with the ornamentation of the rooms where they are displayed, offering visitors a unique museum experience.
The Former Banca Commerciale Italiana
As we exit the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, it’s impossible not to notice the majestic building of the Banca Commerciale Italiana: overlooking the leading gathering place of Milan and situated between Palazzo Marino and the Teatro alla Scala, the former credit institution today constitutes the main entrance to the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan.
But let’s go back to the beginning of the last century when some pre-existing buildings – among them the deconsecrated church of San Giovanni Decollato alle Case Rotte, by architect Francesco Maria Richini – were demolished in order to create more space for the new palazzo.
The project was entrusted to Milanese architect Luca Beltrami, who had already realised the Palazzo Marino façade in 1892, as well as the overall redesigning of Piazza della Scala.
The Banca Commerciale palazzo, boasting an eclectic style with Neoclassical references, blends harmoniously with the context of the surrounding buildings. At the centre of the façade on Piazza della Scala, four demi-columns support a classical tympanum, while only pilasters are present on the Via Manzoni side, with no tympanum.
Beltrami also curated the interiors and furnished the offices, collaborating with the bank engineer, Giovanni Battista Casati, who was in charge of the arrangement and distribution of the spaces. In order to be able to realise an advanced, modern project, the engineer and the head accountant, Adolfo Comelli, visited and studied modern bank installations abroad: Frankfurt, Berlin, Dresden, Munich and Zurich were fundamental stop-overs on their trip.
The modern technical and functional devices in the bank headquarters did not neglect to draw the attention of contemporaries:
- synchronised clocks
- electric bells and lit signs at the doors of the managers’ offices
- pneumatic tube system with 2.6 kilometres of tubes connecting 34 different offices, with peaks of a thousand capsules sorted by operators per hour
- energy self-sufficiency
- at the avant-garde of air control systems
Today the former Banca Commerciale Italiana houses a selection of works from the 20th century belonging to the Intesa Sanpaolo collection, presented in rotation with periodically renewed thematic installations in the vein of the project Cantiere del ’900.2 (“20th-century Construction Site.2”).
The basements also houses some masterpieces of the previous century: you can visit them every third Thursday of the month on the guided tour Il caveau svelato (“The vault revealed”).
For further information regarding this extraordinary building, you can view the extensive photographic documentation – from its earliest photoreports to shots of contemporary figures – available at the Historical Archives of Intesa Sanpaolo.
The Garden of Alessandro Manzoni
Open to the public since 15th October 2015, the garden can be found between Casa del Manzoni and Palazzo Anguissola Antona Traversi.
Walking among the basswood and magnolia trees of this green patch in the heart of Milan, you might chance upon a contemporary art sculpture realised by Joan Miró, Giò Pomodoro, Jean Arp or Pietro Cascella. There is also a niche fountain with the bust of Alexander the Great, a symbol of prestige for the Anguissola line and a clear sign of Count Antonio Carlo’s passion for classical antiquities.