Discovering the Caffè Fernanda at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, the bistro named after a great woman in the history of art, Fernanda Wittgens, located inside the museum created by Napoleon as the Italian "Louvre".
Which bistro in the world offers the opportunity to drink a coffee a few meters from the most famous kiss in history, which inspired Luchino Visconti for his film Senso as well as Federico Seneca for the famous blue box of Baci Perugina’s chocolates?
We are obviously talking about the painting The Kiss. An episode of youth. Costumes of the 14th century, the manifesto of 19th-century romanticism completed by Francesco Hayez in 1859 and housed in the last room of the Pinacoteca di Brera which overlooks the Caffè Fernanda.
Brera risen from the ruins of the war offers a wider testimony than the purely artistic one, a testimony of civilization.
The first real bar that the Pinacoteca has ever had, it was inaugurated in 2018 and named in honor of the first female director of the museum, Fernanda Wittgens, as well as the first in Italy to hold a management role in an important cultural institution.
There are many uniquenesses that the Cafè reveals through its important history. Like the view from the outdoor area: its tables, in fact, overlook the spectacular courtyard of the two-floor arcade that houses the Monument to Napoleon by Antonio Canova, a majestic 3-meter statue commissioned in 1807 to the artist by Eugenio di Beauharnais, viceroy of Italy.
In fact, the Pinacoteca was officially founded in 1809 by the will of Napoleon, King of Italy at the time, with the idea of exhibiting the most significant paintings from the territories conquered by the French armies. Unlike the other great museums of the country, the Pinacoteca di Brera was not born, therefore, from a private collection, but from the clear political vision of the French leader of creating an Italian “Louvre”.
The beauty of the interiors of the Caffè Fernanda is due, instead, to the great architect Piero Portaluppi, author among his other masterpieces of Villa Necchi Campiglio and of the restoration of Casa degli Atellani, to whom, following the severe bombing of 1943, was entrusted the main part of the reconstruction of the museum.
It was precisely its director Fernanda Wittgens, to whom we owe in addition to the saving of many artworks during the Second World War also the rearrangement of the rooms according to modern museum criteria, who inaugurated the new Pinacoteca on 9 June 1950.
The design of the café space, housed in what used to be the entrance to the Pinacoteca, was completed by rgastudio which, while adding a contemporary touch, has kept intact the details of the original 1950s decor by Portaluppi such as the Peach Blossom marble floors and the door frames in Rosso Levanto marble with the inscription “Brera” in brass that stands out against the teal blue walls.
In addition to the large painting by Pietro Damini S. Bernardo converting the Duke of Aquitaine located above the counter and Bertel Thorvaldsen’s The Three Graces, already present in 1950, the bust of Fernanda Wittgens by Marino Marini and her portrait by Attilio Rossi were added to the room.
And after a drink at Caffè Fernanda there are many other masterpieces waiting for you in the rooms of the Pinacoteca, from the Dead Christ by Mantegna to the Marriage of the Virgin by Raffello, from the Pala di Montefeltro by Piero della Francesca to the Supper in Emmaus by Caravaggio.
While if you are curious to know other details of the history of this extraordinary museum and its director, we recommend the book I am Fernanda Wittgens. A life for Brera by Giovanna Ginex that was published in 2018.