A superb collection of masterpieces for those who wish to wallow in the greatest of art.
This grand palazzo, built over a 14th-century convent, was taken over by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in 1773 to house many of the grand cultural institutions of the city. She charged Neo-Classical architect Giuseppe Piermarini with the redesign, which was to include an Academy of Fine Arts, a major library and the Pinacoteca di Brera, originally conceived as a style library of Italian art for use by the students.
Napoleon had other ideas when he arrived in town however, turning the collection into a major art museum. It now contains a superb range of works by many of the finest Italian artists from the 13th to the 20th centuries – people such as Mantegna, Bellini, Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Canaletto.
There’s a huge concentration of religious art as the works, notably those by Leonardo and Raphael, were “acquired” by the state during the suppression of various monasteries. And, during a swap arrangement with the Louvre, the collection gained five 17th-century Flemish works by Rubens, Joardens, Van Dyck and Rembrandt. A major post-war gift added works by artists including Braque and Modigliani.
This is now one of the best art galleries in Italy – a lush sensual feast of colour. If a few too many of the angels are rolling their eyes to heaven, it's small price to pay for such a treat.