«Magnificent hall», «splendid and opulent place», «enchanted atrium» – thus wrote journalists in Milan of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which opened to the public on 15th September 1867. Its architecture caught the imagination of writers and journalists and inspired the satisfaction of the city fathers, the admiration of citizens and, inevitably, some criticism. It had taken only two and a half years to build this creation that had required unheard-of financial, technical and artistic resources, had completely redefined the city centre, and had projected Milan towards an international horizon of modernity.
“Sotto il cielo di cristallo”
December 21, 2017 – March 18, 2018
Piazza Castello, 20121 Milano MI,
In September 1867 the Gallery was not quite finished, since the triumphal entrance arch from Piazza del Duomo was still missing, but it was immediately ready for use and a hive of activity, becoming the favourite place to visit for locals and «foreigners». Featuring in all the tour guides, its fame spread throughout Europe, for its lively shops and meeting places, for its impressive atmosphere, and for its fascinating crystal sky, its lights and colours.
«It is the heart of the city. People flock there from all over», observed Luigi Capuana in 1881, in what is perhaps the most eloquent passage ever written about the Gallery, capturing the sense of this excellent urban location, where the many faces of Milan were represented: fashion and custom, science and technology, art and decoration, economics and finance, trade and industry (L. Capuana, La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, in Milano 1881, Milan, Giuseppe Ottino, 1881, pages 407-417).
For all these aspects the Gallery can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but of great interest is the study of how it came to be decided upon, designed and built. 150 years after the inauguration, this exhibition aims to briefly review the administrative, architectural, technical and urban history of the Gallery through a selection of the numerous documentary materials belonging to the Civic Collections: drawings, letters, legal documents, printed matters and manuscripts, photographs and paintings, objects and relics of various kinds, which allow us to present a significant cross-section of Italy’s most famous gallery. «The best covered streets known in Europe», proclaims the Guida per Milano e pei laghi of 1871, in sincere appreciation of a city location that has never lost its charm.