Pinacoteca di Brera

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Pinacoteca di Brera

Milan
Italy

This 17th-century palazzo houses one of Italy's finest collections of medieval and Renaissance art; it's inarguably the world's finest collection of northern Italian painting. The concentration of so many masterpieces here is the work of Napoléon, who used the palazzo as the repository for the art he confiscated from public and private holdings throughout northern Italy; fittingly, a bronze likeness of the emperor greets you upon entering the courtyard.

Just as a sampling of what you'll encounter in these 40 or so rooms, three of Italy's greatest masterpieces hang here: Andrea Mantegna's amazingly foreshortened Dead Christ, Raphael's Betrothal of the Virgin, and Piero della Francesca's Madonna with Saints (the Montefeltro Altarpiece). It is an indication of this museum's ability to overwhelm visitors that the last two absolute masterpieces hang near each other in a single room dedicated to works by Tuscan and Umbrian painters.

Paintings are continually being rearranged; in the first rooms you will encounter the museum's sizeable collection of 20th-century paintings. From there you enter several galleries of sumptuous Venetian works, including Jacopo Tintoretto's Finding of the Body of St. Mark, in which the dead saint eerily confronts appropriately startled grave robbers who come upon his corpse. Caravaggio (Supper at Emmaus is his masterpiece here) is surrounded by works of his followers, and just beyond is a room devoted to works by foreigners; among them Rembrandt's Portrait of a Young Woman. Given Napoléon's fondness for the Venetian schools, the final rooms are again filled with works from that city, including Canaletto's View of the Grand Canal.

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