Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli

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Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli
Earl Poldi
Francesco Hayez - Portrait of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli - Google Art Project.jpg
Portrait of Count Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli painted by Francesco Hayez, 1851
Coat of arms
Arms of the Poldi Pezzoli Family
PredecessorGiuseppe Poldi Pezzoli
SuccessorExtinct House
Born27 July 1822
Died6 April 1879
Noble familyPoldi Pezzoli
FatherGiuseppe Poldi Pezzoli
MotherRosa Trivulzio
OccupationArt collector

Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli (Milan 27 July 1822 - 6 April 1879) was an Italian count who gathered art from Italian Renaissance and left Italy one of the first private museum which bears his name, the Museo Poldi Pezzoli.


Portrait of Giuseppe Bertini depicting Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli in the year of his untimely death

Son of Giuseppe Poldi Pezzoli (1768 - 1833) and Rosa Trivulzio (1800 - 1859), Gian Giacomo grew up surrounded by a rich, cultural and artistic, environment. His father was a wealthy landowner, and had recently come into possession of a large fortune and the title of earl left to him by his uncle (which includes among other things the famous Milanese palace which later became a museum, Museo Poldi Pezzoli). His mother was the descendant of one of the noblest and wealthiest families of Milan, the Trivulzio Family. This enabled Gian Giacomo to get in touch the nobles of his time and with the literary landscape, artistic and cultural of the early nineteenth century.

From 1849 he undertook to gather an important collection includes paintings of Sandro Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Antonio del Pollaiolo, Francesco Guardi , Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini and Bernardo Daddi, as well as many valuable items of furniture, weapons, bronzes, pottery, goldsmith's works, carpets. The headquarters of this new private museum was his father's palace that he had it restored for the occasion.

Poldi Pezzoli died of a heart attack in his home, while he was in the study room, which is the only room that survived the bombing raid in 1943. According to his will the collections and his house, at his death, were to be donated to the people of Milan which then had to undertake to maintain the system implemented by the founder. The museum was officially opened to the public in 1881.

Political Role[edit]

Gian Giacomo and his collection had a big political role, he was a nationalist at a time when there was no Italian nation. His love for the Italian Risorgimento's ideals is show by his active participation the rebellion of the Five Days which sparked the First Italian War of Independence With the other Milanese nobles he bought an artillery command for the Lombard army and subsidized the Piedmontese army. In 1848 he also obtained an official role, although not prominent: he was sent to Venice as Special Commissioner of the Provisional Government of Lombardy in the Venetian provinces[1]

This obvious opposition to the Austrian rule forced him, after the Italian defeat in August 1848, to go in exile in Lugano. His name appeared in the list of citizens to whom the Marshal Josef Radetzky gave a heavy fine. The exile in Switzerland was a fundamental experience for his intellectual and political growth. He was able to obtained a passport in 1849 and went on a trip all around Europe. He went first in France and then in other Italian States, residing for a long time in Florence. He was finally forced to return home in Milan and had to pay a fine of 600,000 Austrian liras[2] to regain possession of his property.

Milan during that time was dominated by Austrian censorship and Giacomo Poldi was from now on only able to play a smaller political role. He opposed the Austrian no by blatantly showing his patriotism and instead reserved all his efforts to create an ancient Italian art collection joining the ranks of the great art patrons. In 1850 he supported the publication of the annual illustrated Album of the Exhibition in Brera. With the creation of the house museum Poldi pezzoli he also contributed to the promotion of the Italian art as form of rebellion towards Austria.

Building the Museum[edit]

This picture shows the Black room of the Poldi Pezzoli Museum before the 1943 bombardment

Gian Giacomo, between 1850 and 1853, had Giuseppe Balzaretto build a new block to his house, twin to his seventeenth-century family mansion in 'the Garden lane' (now Via Manzoni). His repeated stays in Paris allowed him to visit the new Musée des Thermes et de l'Hotel de Cluny, created by Alexandre du Sommerard. A pioneer of the romantic museum design: a collection not only made up of paintings and statues, but with precious furniture and decorative art, also chosen to evoke an artificial atmosphere of home. The resounding success of this new interpretation of the past and concept of museum gave the idea to Poldi Pezzoli of building a house-museum, which would be among the first and most current examples at European level of the house-museum in historic style, and one that was greatly admired by his contemporaries.

One of the decisive factors for this decision was the meeting with the young painter and a stained glass artist, Giuseppe Bertini. From 1853 to 1879. Bertini designed every room of the house in an historicist style, assisted by the painter Luigi Scrosati, the bronze worker Giuseppe Speluzzi and sculptor Lorenzo Vela. Through this meeting the most beautiful rooms of the museum were born, Dante's Cabinet in the style of Italian fourteenth century, the black room in the Northern Renaissance style, the Hall of stucco rococo, baroque staircase and finally the Golden Room.

In this way Poldi Pezzoli supported and safeguarded for over two decades the civic arts and crafts. From the Fifties the house Poldi became a construction site where the Milanese contemporary decorative arts promoted a model of Italian excellence in Europe, distinguished by a careful study based on observation of the techniques of the past, whose works progressively enriched the apartment.

Giacomo Poldi put all his civic passion also in the establishment of a museum dedicated to the ancient Italian art in which stood out paintings of the Tuscan school, Umbria, Veneto, Emilia, Manifesto of a national cultural unity which anticipated the creation of the country.

Creation of the Collection[edit]

A recent picture of the large weaponry collection of the Museum

The collection, was put together steadily from 1850 until 1879, composed by pieces of exceptional quality from the most famous masters of the Renaissance, such as Botticelli, Mantegna, Cosimo Tura, Carlo Crivelli, Giovanni Bellini, Piero del Pollaiolo. With also later works from Canaletto and Guardi, and medieval paintings with golden baek by Vitale degli Equi and Pietro Lorenzetti. The works, mostly of medium format because destined to private Use, in good condition and are often signed, lined up to the theme of the building art critic, thanks not only to the economic possibilities, but also a dense network of advisers and art connoisseurs of which the collector wisely surrounded himself.

Giuseppe Molteni initially played a fundamental role in building picture gallery. Director of the Academy of Brera, antique dealer and broker, restorer of European fame, through which Poldi Pezzoli came into contact with the academic environment of collectors and connoisseurs. Between 1853 and 1855, Bernardino Biondelli, director of the Coin Cabinet of Milan (Milan, Archive Foundation Brivio Sforza, Poldi Pezzoli Museum and Library, b. 1, cc. Unnumbered), was his adviser for archaeological and medieval purchases.

This relationship was very fruitful and Poldi Pezzoli entered the circle of European connoisseurs meeting important people, such as Otto Mündler[3] and Charles Lock Eastlake,[4] respectively emissary for purchases and director of the National Gallery of London. In their periodic trips to Milan they never missed a chance to visit the collection of the nobleman, with whom they completed the purchase of primitive and Italian Renaissance painters, as it is written in their respective notebooks and diaries

For the works of applied art Giacomo Poldi could count on Bertini's suggestions and deliveries from the Milanese antique dealers, most notably Giuseppe Baslini. He was also solicited to build a bigger collection by the critic Giovanni Morelli, which he met in 1861.

The reconstruction of the history of his purchases from 1861 onward is a key document : La Cassa mia Particolare. This book, recently rediscovered, was written by Poldi pezzoli to keep an accounts of all his art purchases and is preserved in the Archives of the Foundation Brivio Sforza of Milan.[5]

His succession[edit]

In 1860, he finally obtained of the Kingdom of Italy's passport and was finally, after ten years, able to travel. He immediately left for a trip of a few months in Switzerland, Germany, France and England. He returned to England in 1862 during the III Great Exhibition in London. On the sentimental front Poldi Pezzoli, often attracted by dancers or actresses, was unable to establish a stable relationship, he ended up falling madly in love with Giuseppina Parravicini, who had recently married Cavezzali Francis (1797-1877). In 1859 she gave live to Camilla Cavezzali, who became his protege and was probably his natural daughter born of his relationship with Giuseppina Parravicini.

During 1861, the year in which Italy finally achieved Unity, Giacomo Poldi, still a young man, wrote his first will. In his will the Recipients all his fortune was to be his grandson Fabio Gonzaga, son of his sister Matilde; it was specified not to disperse the collection, which was to remain tied to Milan. ( "a decoration of my native city and in memory of my affection for it")[6] Fabio's death in 1868 forced Giacomo Poldi, still unmarried, to locate a new destination for its heritage and for the collection. In 1871, with a second testament he secretly laid the foundations for the creation of a museum or art foundation. The museum would consists of his home and personal art collection, preserved "for public use and benefit in perpetuity with the standards the Pinacoteca di Brera ".[7]

The direction was entrusted to his friend Bertini, who in the meantime had become director of the Accademia di Brera; the museum was equipped with an annuity intended to cover the operating costs and purchases of ancient and modern works. The rest of his movable and immovable heritage was left to Luigi Alberico Trivulzio (1868-1938), son of Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, a cousin from the maternal line, while Camilla Cavezzali was designated heir to a huge sum of money (400,000 lire ).

From that moment Poldi Pezzoli began a process of publicizing his collections. In 1872 he became a member of the Executive Committee of The Ancient Art Exhibition held at the Brera Academy, an exhibition that featured a selection of private Milanese collections in which an entire room was devoted to the presentation of masterpieces from his collection.[8]

Two years later, the city organized an Historical exhibition of industrial art, the aim was also to initiate a civic museum dedicated to the congenerical arts. The expertise gained from Poldi Pezzoli in collecting art was ratified by his appointment as commissioner officer of four sections: weapons, glass, ivory and bronze. Using this occasion he exposed half of his collections, nearly a thousand objects.

He suddenly died of a heart attack on April 6, 1879 in his palace in Milan. He was buried in Bellagio, in a neo-Gothic style mausoleum romantically isolated that Charles Maciacchini had built for him.[9] April 26, 1881, the museum opened to the public in accordance with his instructions, on the occasion of the Milan National Exhibition.


Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli Father:
Giuseppe Poldi Pezzoli
Paternal Grandfather :
Gaetano Poldi
Paternal Great Grand Father :
Paternal Great great grandfather :
Paternal Great great grandmother :
Paternal Great grandfather:
Paternal Great great grandfather :
Paternal Great great grandmother:
Paternal Grandmother :
Margherita Pezzoli

Paternal Great Uncle :
Giuseppe Pezzoli D'Albertone

Paternal Great grandfather:
Gerolamo Pezzoli
Paternal Great great grandfather:
Gerolamo Pezzoli
Paternal Great great grandmother:
Paternal Great grandmother:
Paternal Great great grandfather:
Paternal Great great grandmother:
Rosina Trivulzio
Maternal Grandfather:
Gian Giacomo IV Trivulzio
Maternal Great grandfather:
Giorgio Teodoro Trivulzio
Maternal Great great grandfather:
Alessandro Trivulzio
Maternal Great great grandmother:
Margherita Pertusati
Maternal Great grandmother:
Maria Cristina Cicogna
Maternal Great great grandfather:
Carlo Francesco Cicogna
Maternal Great great grandfather:
Leopoldina von Dhaun
Maternal Grandmother:
Beatrice Serbelloni
Great grandfather:
Alessandro Serbelloni
Maternal Great great grandfather:
Gabrio Serbelloni
Maternal Great great grandmother:
Vittoria Ottoboni
Maternal Great grandmother:
Rosina Sinzendorf
Maternal Great great grandfather :
Wenzel Hermann von Sinzendorf
Maternal Great great grandmother:
Maria Anna von Harrach zu Rohrau

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arrigioni Luigi,Documenti storici ed autografie relativi alla storia del Risorgimento possedudti ed illustrati in occasione della Esposizione Nazionale di Torino, 1884, Milan
  2. ^ Galli Lavinia and Mazzocca Fernando,Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli L'uomo e il collezionista del risorgimento, 2012, Milan
  3. ^ The travel diaries of Otto Mündler, edited by C. Togneri Dowd in the Walpole Society, LI ( 1985), pp. 69-254, in partic. pp. 94, 96, 148, 154, 162.
  4. ^ The travel notebooks of Sir Charles Eastlake, edited by S. Avery Quash, ibid., 2011, no. 73, monographic , I, pp. 416 s., 561, 661, II, p. 69).
  5. ^ Squizzato Galli, 2011, pp. 153-172
  6. ^ Squizzato Galli, 2011, p. 156
  7. ^ Galli - Squizzato, 2011, pp. 157-159
  8. ^ Catalog of works 'ancient art on display in the Palazzo di Brera, catal., Milan, 1872, pp. 28-31
  9. ^ AFT, Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli, b. Heredity, DC. Unnumbered


The documents for G.G. P. P. are divided into three archives: The Archive of the Poldi Pezzoli Museum has payments of the establishment of the house and the purchase of works of art; The Archive of Trivulzio of Milan Foundation brings together the little private correspondence and notes on real property and inheritance Poldi Pezzoli; The Archive of the Foundation Brivio Sforza of Milan retains a selection of documents related to the process of acquiring works, including my particular case. The absence in the three letter-books of the archives makes his personality but still elusive. A selection of documents was transcribed in G.G. P. P., 1979, pp. 18–26, 30-36, 30-70, 80-89 and, in part complementary, Appendix documentary of G.G. P. P., 2011, pp. 153–160.