Pinacoteca Ambrosiana

So, this time I was in Milan and I was too late to order the cheap tickets for the last supper painting. This really is something I regret: tickets to the last supper aren’t very expensive: IF you buy them at the right moment. If you’re too late, the big tourist centers will buy them, and they ask a €60,- entree fee per person. And since I was traveling with my son, I thought €120,- was way too expensive for visiting just one painting: even it was Leonardo da Vinci’s!! So,.. with acking heart, I tried to ignore this opportunity (to see the last supper) and search for other interesting paintings I could see in Milan.

That’s how I found out about the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana and the musician of Leonardo da Vinci: In Milan there are two paintings of da Vinci to see: the last supper, and this one. Since I couldn’t see the last supper, I wanted to see the musician, so I went to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.

Reachable by public transport

Let’s start with how to get there: it is in Milan, in the very center of the city. You just follow the crowds to the Duomo square. There are a lot of things to do at the Duomo, which is the biggest square in Milan. It has it’s own metro station, and I’m sure most of the busdrivers know their way to the Duomo as well. The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is not at the Duomo, but nearby. It is only as little as a 5 min. walk, at the Piazza Pio XI, no. 2. I thought it was very doable by metro.


The Duomo square is the place to be if you’re a tourist in Milan. There’s the Milan Cathedral, with it’s huge waiting line, there are several palazzo’s (palaces), other churches, a must-see shopping mall in eclectical 19th century style with grotesques, caryatids, lunettes and pilasters. But there’s also Museo del Novecento and Museo del Duomo. I really wanted to visit the museum of 900 (novecento), because it exhibits Italian art from the 20th century, but I couldn’t go there: I was visiting Milan with my 16 year old son, and we only were there for 2 days, so I just had to make some compromises.

So: were there a lot of people at the Pinacoteca? No,.. and that’s surprising, because it is located nearby a hot spot. But not IN or AT the hot spot,.. and that’s probably the reason.

Interesting works of art

The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana mostly is on 16th and 17th century artwork. Most of the artwork are paintings, but they also have some statues and stained glass art. The first picture I posted here (^ up ^) was a triptych of Marco d’ Occiono. I never heard of the guy, but that’s typical for the museum: most of the artists were unknown by me. I made a picture of this painting, because it resembles the most of the paintings you’ll see when you enter the museum: paintings of Jesus, Maria and John (in this case it’s John the Baptist and John the Evangelist). There were a lot of decapitated John’s actually, but I won’t bother you with these.

Another interesting work of art is this painting by Bramantino (which also is an artist I’ve never heard from before). I just couldn’t help staring at the painting and wondering why there was a dead frog, a dead person and why Jesus was offered a leprechaun. The painting is called: The Madonna Enthroned with Saint Ambrose and Saint Michael. And after some googling I found out that the dead frog symbolises malignity defeated, the dead man symbolises the victory over Arianism (Hitler would be furious about this painting! :-D) And the leprechaun is the symbol of a dead soul: what a great gift for a child! Anyway: I thought this was a weird painting. And even after the symbolism is explained: I still think it’s a weird painting. On to the next!

Two paintings: one of them is an digital artwork,.. can you guess which one? I was curious about the digital artwork, which is said to be from Caravaggio: an artist I did heard of!! And I know one thing: Caravaggio lived a loooooong time ago, and would never have had the opportunity to make a digital artwork! So: what’s up with that? The sign next to the painting did not answer this question. So we’re happy someone invented internet. So the question could be answered as followed: The original basket of fruit by Caravaggio is at the Palazzo Reale (for now; it’s a loan). This digital work is created by the company Cinello, using an innovative patented technology (sorry guys; that’s all I can tell about the creation, it probably is a secret on how they actually replicated this piece). Well. Nice. Isn’t it? And why did they do that? Of course: for educational and informational purposes and to preserve the Italian heritage. And that’s fine by me.

The other interesting work of art was the baby Jesus with a lamb. The lamb is very present on the paintings in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. Actually always together with a picture of Jesus, but that’s all because of the lamb of God-thing, of course. Most of the time, however, there was an adult Jesus, holding a lamb, or otherwise a very static baby, in the arms of Maria, with a static lamb at their feet. This painting of Bernardino Luini was very different: it depicts a very lively boy and a playful lamb. Boy and animal, in a loving embrace. Very good.

Next was a glass stained window. My son really liked it, probably because of it’s size or colors. The window was made by Guiseppe Bertini.

Something I thought was interesting, was the cardboard, Raphael had made to make a life size template for his famous fresco the school of Athens. Somehow, he thought it would be a good idea to paste several pieces of paper together, to get the size of the (to be painted) wall and design the whole thing on it. Next to that, he managed to transfer the sketch from the cardboard onto the wall, and somehow: the cardboard is still intact. And now: it is to be seen at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana; how cool is that?! Cool enough to let an evenly life size videoscreen play an analysis of the drawing. And I made a picture of that video.

At the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana there also was Belgian art. My son and I equally were interested in this painting of Jan Brueghel: allegory of fire. Only,.. it is not the allegory of fire: if you google the allegory of fire, you’ll find an almost identical painting,.. only the chandelier is not in front of the cave, but left of it, above a naked lady,.. And,.. the allegory of fire is supposed to be in Rome. This one is different, and I wish I had an audiotour to tell me about this painting. It is cool though: whoever made it: it is cool.

And,.. there was more! Of course there was more! Remember why I went to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in the first place? Yes; I wanted to see the musician of Leonardo da Vinci! So,.. I finally came to this room: Aula Leonardi: it must be here: right??? No,.. it wasn’t,.. there was a marvellous fresco made by Bernardino Luini; you know: the guy from the baby Jesus with lamb,.. and a reproduction of the last supper,.. but no musician,.. And then,… Yeah; you’re right: the little painting in the middle of the library is the wanted painting: the musician. In fact: the whole library was dedicated to Leonardo. There not only was the musician, but also a huge book,.. in a cage,.. all written by Leonardo. You could read some of the pages of the book in the windows, on the sides of the room, and on a computer. Leonardo had written several technical ideas in this book: very interesting to see!

Great for learning

I gave the museum a two out of five when it comes down to learning. That’s mainly because all (or most of) the information on the artworks is in Italian. But I do think my son learned something; although I doubt if he still remembers that I explained to him why there were lambs painted next to the pictures of Jesus, and I explained him a bit about the works of Leonardo da Vinci, on how he not only was a painter, but also invented things like airplanes too.


I think it was a good thing the museum has the Leonardo room at the end of the ‘tour’, because it keeps the visitor curious about the next room; for I think I was not the only one who got to this museum because of this painting of Leonardo. But, even so, I don’t think the museum did much to entertain their audience, next to showing great works of art, of course.


Leonardo da Vinci is a very inspiring figure. It is great to see his talent when you look at the musician, and it certainly is extraordinary you get the opportunity to scroll through his notebook. Da Vinci’s lifestyle is something I really admire and I would love to be able to do the things he’s done, and know the things he knew.

But vistiting the museum didn’t bring me inspiration to start new projects. I guess that actually is in the nature of ‘old’ art, though: old art was mainly created to function as decoration. Of course, iconography is almost always used in these kind of paintings, so the artworks also refer to something, tell a story or give a warning, but it does not make you think; like contemporary art can do. And I usually get more inspiration from contemporary art.

Accessible for the disabled

The museum has a lift. But in order to get in to the museum you have to take three steps. I don’t think that’s very inconvenient.

Friendly staff

The people working there seem a bit old and rusty. It looks like they work there ever since they were a little child, and have celebrated their 60th anniversary at the museum a few years ago. But they still are friendly and very willing to help.

Take the kids?

This time I was visiting the museum with my son, but although he did his best to pretend to be interested, those attempts faded as we entered another room with paintings, and another,.. and another,.. So the last rooms I wandered through on my own, while he waited for me on a comfortable sofa.

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