The Brera Art Gallery presents all the splendour and talent of Italian art. Originally a 14th-century monastery belonging to the Order of the Umiliati, was much later converted into a Gallery, by Maria Theresa of Austria. It was built by the great architect Giuseppe Piermarini.
The Neoclassical structure includes the premises of the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense (Braidense national library), the Astronomical Observatory, the Botanic Garden, the Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Lettere (Lombard Institute of Science and Literature), and the Academy of Fine Arts.
The Gallery was initially created to house a collection of works (mainly paintings arriving in Milano after the suppression of churches and monasteries) provided to assist Academy students in their art historical studies. It gradually grew through donations and bequests, and today it has become a vast collection of artworks.The building has long been one of Italy's principal cultural institutions.
At the centre of the first court, there is an imposing statue of Napoleon in the guise of Mars the peacemaker: this provides an indication of the artistic riches in the internal halls of the Gallery, where there are fine works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini, Fattori and Canaletto. Over four hundred works from the 14th century to the latest currents in contemporary art, demonstrating the success of Italian art worldwide.
Important works include the Finding of the body of Saint Mark by Tintoretto, The marriage of the Virgin by Raphael, Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio, the Polyptych by Vincenzo Foppa, the Montefeltro altarpiece by Piero della Francesca, The Kiss by Francesco Hayez, and Riot in the Gallery and The City Rising by Umberto Boccioni.
On 15 August 1809, on Napoleon’s birthday, the new wing was inaugurated even though it had only been finished in part. 139 paintings were exhibited in the three halls that had been completed.