Today the Palazzo Ducale museum reopens

June 2005

Pavia. In the last five years, the Museo della Certosa in Pavia, which was inaugurated in 1911 and closed after World War II, has been restored and completely reorganized. Today the regional directorate for cultural heritage sites and landscape protection in Lombardy is reopening the museum to the public with guided visits available upon reservation and with special pricing via Italy’s Touring Club. Palazzo Ducale, with its 17th century façade by Francesco Richini extends to the right of the basilica.

The new museum. Milan’s department for architectural heritage and landscape protection has given the museum a new look. Certosa’s director Giuseppe Napoleone and restoration specialist Lorenza Dall’Aglio curated the project for the department.
The layout created at the beginning of the 20th century by Luca Beltrami, the manager for regional conservation offices, didn’t protect the works and visitors and had become obsolete. On the first floor, the wooden structures of the gallery of plaster casts have been substituted with flexible metallic panels designed by Goppion’s Laboratorio Museotecnico (which also realized the case for Leonardo’s Mona Lisa). The plaster casts are no longer hanging. They are anchored and protected by a special nylon thread. Spotlights make the most of not just the works but the atmosphere of the rooms as well, particularly in the frescoes by Fiamminghino and Giovan Battista Pozzo, which are located in the oratory and lavatory on the first floor. On the upper floor, the walls are no longer white and have taken on the original delicate hues. The layout of the works now creates autonomous spaces for paintings, sculptures and frescos, making everything more visible and accessible to visitors.

The legacy. Starting in the 1980s and especially over the last five years, almost all of the plaster casts and artworks in the museum have been restored by Milan’s department for historic, artistic and ethno-anthropological heritage. On the ground floor, the Galleria di San Bruno houses the gallery of plaster casts. «There is a collection of about 260 plaster casts – explains Napoleone – based on sculptural elements from the 19th century that adorn the façade of the basilica and the cloisters. These items tell the story of the Certosa, from the monument commemorating the death of founder Gian Galeazzo Visconti to that of benefactor Ludovico Sforza il Moro and his wife Beatrice d’Este and from the original altar of the Certosa transferred to Carpiano to the spires restored in 1655. To highlight how incredibly important these pieces are from a historical perspective, some of the plaster casts have been placed side by side with the originals, which have often changed over time due to the humid climate or previous restorations».
The upper floor, explains Maria Teresa Fiorio, Milan’s director for historic, artistic and ethno-anthropological heritage, «revisits some of the highlights of the works commissioned for the Certosa, with high reliefs and groups of marble pieces that offer researches much yet to discover». The Hall of Masters presents masterpieces from the 15th century by Ambrogio da Fossano (known as il Borgognone) and Bernardino Luini as well as the large altar piece by Bartolomeo Montagna called “Madonna with child enthroned, with musical angels and surrounded by St. John the Baptist and Saint Jerome.” Then there are halls dedicated to “il Bergognone,” the oratory with frescoes by Fiamminghino with vestments, altar cloths and holy vessels and the halls with portraits of Gian Galeazzo and Caterina Visconti. Visconti, who almost died in childbirth in 1390, vowed that if she survived, the Certosa would be built. The visit ends with the sculpture halls, with the splendid “detached” frescoes by Bernardino De Rossi and paintings like those masterpieces often only on show during large exhibitions. Like the large oil on canvas painted by Cremona-born painter Vincenzo Campi in 1575, “Christ as he’s about to be nailed to the cross”, which has already been loaned to the Museo di Cremona and the Metropolitan Museum of New York.