Art&Style

The new Museum of the Luigi Rovati Foundation

Etruscan beauty meets contemporary art

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
The new Museum of the Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

What was once the palace of the Prince of Piombino in Milan, is now the home to the new Museum of the Luigi Rovati Foundation which tells the apex of Etruscan art in dialogue with contemporary artists, from Picasso to Warhol.

The new Museum, which opened in September 2022, was born from the restoration of the majestic palace in Corso Venezia built in 1871 by the Prince of Piombino, which later became the property of the Bocconi family and then of the Rizzolis, and purchased in 2016 by the Luigi Rovati Foundation, named after the famous doctor, researcher, pharmaceutical entrepreneur and fervent collector of classical art.

A love inherited from his son Lucio who, after a visit to Tarquinia, begins to buy Etruscan artifacts, supported by his wife Giovanna Forlanelli, now president of the Foundation and a great expert in contemporary art. A union that has today given life to an extraordinary private museum that exhibits a collection of over 250 Etruscan artifacts in dialogue with works from different eras and civilizations.

The new Museum of the Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan — Lombardia Secrets
The new Museum of the Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

I have always collected using the same method I applied in my research work: I gather elements for the purpose of acquiring knowledge.

(Luigi Rovati)

The building’s redevelopment project was extraordinary, followed by the MCA studio, led by architect Mario Cucinella, who recovered an entire underground floor by shaping it in pietra serena, a stone material extracted from the Tuscan-Emilian quarries, with 30,000 blocks that envelop the entire space, giving life to  spectacular sinusoidal rooms inspired by the Etruscan tombs of Cerveteri.

The Etruscan civilization, which saw the period of maximum splendor in Central Italy between the ninth and sixth centuries B.C. when they reached with their trade the Mediterranean and Central Europe, is in many ways still mysterious, of uncertain origin and considered by many to be the Italic precursor of that aesthetic sense linked to Beauty as an ethical code that has made Made in Italy famous throughout the world.

The new Museum of the Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

A fine craftsmanship and a joyful hedonism, in fact, which can be found in the wonderful grave goods, jewels and precious objects displayed in the underground room alongside contemporary works that pay homage to the Etruscan civilization. Like, right at the entrance, the Testa di Medusa by Arturo Martini, in reference to this people’s custom of adorning buildings with the effigies of Medusa to whom they attributed the function of keeping bad luck away, or the Picasso vase that proposes the image of an Etruscan banquet.

Interior decoration enthusiasts will particularly love the noble floor of the Palazzo which has kept intact the precious original details of the building such as the wood paneling, stuccoes, marble floors and fireplaces, enriching them, as well as with Etruscan art, with site-specific works created by international artists.

The new Museum of the Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

The rooms, renovated in the 1960s by the architect Filippo Perego for the Rizzoli family, retain the original flavor of an elegant Milanese residence, enriched with pop touches.

In the first room, in Baroque style with green brocades on the walls, we find suspended the Lanterne à quatre lumières designed by Diego Giacometti and made in plaster in 1983 for the Parisian apartment of the famous American garden designer and collector Rachel Lambert (Bunny) Mellon.

Crossing the long corridor embellished by the splendid tapestries of Francesco Simeti, one enters the first hall where the canvas The Etruscan Scene: Female Ritual Dance (1985) by Andy Warhol, inspired by the dancers represented in the tomb of the Lionesses of Tarquinia, is paired with dozens of scenic Etruscan black buccheri (vases) enclosed in tall display cases.

The new Museum of the Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

The adjacent hall houses the installation by Giulio Paolini that dialogues with the great late-Etruscan stone sculpture of the warrior Arnth Prastna, while the splendid dining room with fuchsia walls is decorated with watercolors by Luigi Ontani.

In the next room, finely inlaid, we find the large mirror by Marianna Kennedy that coexists with ancient objects related to the art of war and the canvas by Giorgio de Chirico‘s Le Cheval d’Agamèmnon (1929).

The new Museum of the Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

The itinerary ends with the room Spazio Bianco for temporary exhibitions, until 27 November dedicated to the works of Sabrina Mezzaqui.

The Museum of the Rovati Foundation also houses an original bookshop on the ground floor and, with an outdoor area overlooking the internal garden of the Palazzo, the café-bistro by the chef Andrea Aprea, two Michelin stars, open from Wednesday to Sunday from 8.00 to 21.30.

The Secret

Porta Venezia was originally one of the poorest areas of Milan, especially during the plague that hit the city in the 17th century. Refurbished under Austrian rule as a regal “entrance” to the city, in 1836 the area was bought by the Englishman Giacomo Johnson who installed a workshop for the production of buttons and badges in stamped metal, as confirmed by some bronze buttons found in the layers of more superficial excavation of the building.

Useful Info

Fondazione Luigi Rovati
Corso Venezia 52
20121 Milano
Tel. +39 02 38273001

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