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The Museum from 1881 to today

The Museum

1881 – 1939

Giuseppe Bertini, the first director of the museum, increased the number of the art works in the collections, without changing its characteristics. After his death in 1898, the architect Camillo Boito (1836-1914), director of the Brera Academy, took charge of the direction. He focused on the re-organization of the house-museum according to more innovative museographic criteria, with the aim of making the works of art more accessible. He also promoted a photographic campaign, which is a precious historical evidence of the museographic taste of the time.
In 1939, during the Second World War, the museum was closed and all the art works that could be moved were transported to safer places.

Il museo nel 1881


In August 1943, air raids destroyed in one night all the main museums in Milan. Also the Poldi Pezzoli palace and its decorations were severely damaged. The bombings destroyed the ceilings, the windows collapsed, and with them the stuccowork, the frescoes and the wooden decorations. These elements, which contributed to create the unique atmosphere of the Poldi Pezzoli house-museum, were unfortunately lost forever.


After the war the reconstruction of the Museum started, with the aim of rebuilding it “where it was and as it was.” Thanks to Fernanda Wittgens and Ferdinando Reggiori, an effort was made to recover the parts that had been less damaged, such as the Antique Staircase and the Dante Study. In order to recreate the original home-like atmosphere of the interiors, the decorations lost in the bombing were evoked by new, lighter ones. The museum was re-opened to the public on the 3rd of December 1951.

La ricostruzione del museo

1951 – TODAY

Thanks to generous donations (over a thousand objects in the last fifty years), the Poldi Pezzoli Museum has now one of the most refined collections in Europe. In the unique atmosphere of the refurbished rooms, paintings of great Masters coexist with furnishings and decorative artworks of outstanding artistic quality. New areas were created: the Armour Room and the Jewellery Room. The museum, which its founder wanted “for public use and benefit”, continues to fulfil its original purpose: to be a service for the community.