OSAKA, JAPAN.-Milan as a city of art is still a too well-hidden secret. Most visitors are on extremely brief business trips, while the majority of the rest whiz into Milan on organized tours that hit only the haute couture shops and a few renowned artistic features, such as Leonardo?s Last Supper. To encourage greater collaboration and increased cultural awareness of the myriad of historical and artistic things that Milan offers, the city has organized, together with the cities of Chiba and Osaka (twinned with Milan), an exhibit entitled "Milan. The Splendor of a Great City," which will travel between the two Japanese cities in the fall and winter of 2005.
The exhibit presents a panorama of the history, art and culture of Milan. Located in the center of humid plains south of the Alps and near the wandering beds carved by important rivers-the most convenient means of transportation until the birth of asphalt roads and motor cars-Milan grew at the crossroads between the European continent and the Italian peninsula, and thus was a principal player in the events that shaped the Europe we know today. Settled by Celts by the fifth century B.C., conquered then absorbed by Romans as a cushion against marauding Gauls, conquered by Germanic Longobards soon fascinated by the tangible and intangible remnants of the ancient city once the unofficial capital of the Roman Empire, Milan shook free its restive spirit, and launched itself into a leadership role, blessed and at times blamed, as various factions (feudal, imperial, papal and eventually national) jockeyed and fought for power during the development of city. The area of Montenapoleone, in which the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum is located, stretches between the streets where the ancient Roman and medieval walls once ran.
To this tribute to Milan, the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum contributes one of its most important paintings, the poetic San Francesco. Painted in ca. 1502 by the post-Leonardo Lombard master, Zenale, for the chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the church of San Francesco in Cantù, the panel and its companion piece, St. John the Baptist, once were two figures in a single polyptych panel, as evidenced by the painted arch over their heads. The panel and other pieces of the original polyptych, now in the Getty Museum (Malibu/Los Angeles) and the Poldi Pezzoli (Milan), were separated into individually saleable paintings at an unknown time, perhaps in the 19th century, and the museum?s two pieces found their way into the Bagatti Valsecchi collection by the 1890s. The Bagatti Valsecchi Museum possesses other works by Zenale, as well as other important post-Leonardo northern Italian masters, such as Giampietrino and Giovanni Bevilacqua, the two Venetian Bellini brothers, and Lorenzo di Niccolò, active in early Medicean Florence, to mention only a few. However, the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum offers not just important and interesting individual works of art, but, more significantly still, a ?magic window? onto Milan?s recent aristocratic past. Works of art and furniture are displayed in this museum, as the original late nineteenth century collectors, Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi, wished them to be seen. One of Europe?s most important historic house museums, the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum is proud to share its patrimony with the Japanese public, and invites everyone to visit the museum, and to see the San Francesco in its original position, after its return in time for the New Year, 2006.