Museo del Novecento
Quarto Stato

Milano, Italy




Length of exhibit fronts

5 m

The extensive art collection of the City of Milan has recently found an ideal home in the Arengario, an ambitious but incomplete palazzo in the Fascist style overlooking Piazza Duomo. Designed in 1936 and later converted by one of Italy’s most original contemporary architects, Italo Rota (with Fabio Fornasari), the newly renovated Museo del Novecento (‘Museum of the 20th Century’) includes over 4,000 square meters of dedicated exhibition space distributed over three floors, as well as an equal amount of space devoted to services and offices. Open escalators connect the three floors of the museum and large windows offer splendid views of Milan’s historic and contemporary architecture. A spiral ramp, Futurist in tone, connects the subway to the museum entrance. Halfway up this ramp stands a painting that symbolizes the transition between the 19th and 20th centuries: Il Quarto Stato (1902) by Pellizza da Volpedo. It depicts Piedmontese farmers on strike, marching toward the “sun of the future”, and has become an icon of the social struggles of ”the Short Century.” The emblematic painting, placed under glass (for the first time) in a black recess that faces the ramp, both greets visitors to the museum and is visible from its exterior.

Exhibition design: Italo Rota, Fabio Fornasari, Milan

The challenge

The most challenging aspect of this installation was unquestionably transporting and installing the enormous protective glass panel that fronts the painting. A team from Goppion brought the glass into the building through the balcony of the Arengario. The huge laminated glass sheet, weighing more than half a ton (550 kg), was lifted 11 meters by a crane using a system of suction mounts and carefully maneuvered into the building. Too large to be transported along the walkways used by visitors, the glass was hoisted through the open space defined by the spiral ramp, with the help of a temporary steel gangway that was removed at the conclusion of the operation.

The solution

To protect the Il Quarto Stato, Goppion created a glass facing sheet measuring 5.50 x 2.80 meters, set at a distance of 1.80 meters from the canvas on a sliding track that ensures the proper conservation of the work while also facilitating access for ordinary maintenance operations.