From a shared dream to the Bagatti Valsecchi Foundation

The Bagatti Valsecchi Museum is a historic house museum that is the fruit of the extraordinary collecting experience of two brothers at the end of the 19th century: Barons Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi.

Beginning in the 1880s, the two brothers dedicated themselves to the refurbishing of their family home nestled in the heart of Milan: a mansion between via Gesù and via Santo Spirito, today the center of Milan’s fashion quarter. In order to create a home inspired by sixteenth century Lombard mansions, they also began collecting fifteenth and sixteenth century paintings and decorative arts for it. Continue

Just like us, today, the brothers were fascinated by all the comforts and conveniences of modern life in their day, and, with an extremely refined touch, installed them in their home: central heating, hot and cold running water, and electricity.

After the death of Fausto and Giuseppe, the family continued to live in the mansion until 1974, the year in which the Bagatti Valsecchi Foundation was created, and to which the art patrimony collected by the two brothers was donated. The Bagatti Valsecchi Museum – one of Europe’s best preserved historic house museums and one of the first grand expressions of Milanese design – opened to the public twenty years later, in 1994.

Fausto and Giuseppe, an odd couple

Fausto and Giuseppe were on the front line in the work of restyling their mansion in the Italian Renaissance style. Although they had law degrees, they were never practicing lawyers, preferring, instead, to dedicate their time and financial resources to refurbishing the family home, to its decoration and to their collection of art works destined for it.

Their love for that period was, in any case, in line with the cultural program launched after the Unification of Italy by the Savoy monarchy, which saw in the Italian Renaissance a point-of-reference for the construction of a new kind of national art, an indispensable ingredient for the consolidation of a shared identity that was still too feeble.

Giuseppe and Fausto wearing a tournament costume.

Although they were quite attached to each other and got along very well, the two brothers had very different personalities: Fausto, scintillating and worldly, and Giuseppe, more reserved and a bit of a homebody. Giuseppe, in fact, was responsible for the continuity of the family, thanks to the five children he had with his wife, Carolina Borromeo, whom he married in 1882.

So much energy dedicated to furbishing their mansion located between via Gesù and via Santo Spirito was flanked by the brothers’ activities and duties typical of gentlemen of their rank and their day: administration of their patrimony, charity work, social high life, trips in Italy and abroad, equitation and other curious sporting passions, such as hot air ballooning and riding velocipedes.

After the death of Fausto and Giuseppe, their heirs continued to live in the Bagatti Valsecchi home until 1974, when Pasino, one of Giuseppe’s children who was by then in his 70s, decided to constitute the Bagatti Valsecchi Foundation, and donate to it the art patrimony that his ancestors had assembled.