In total, I visited the Pinacoteca and Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Art Gallery and Library) twice in two years and during my first visit, I only focused on the absolutely highlights such as the original “Preparatory Cartoon of the School of Athens” by Raphael, “The Portrait of a Musician” by Leonardo da Vinci, “The Portrait of a Woman” or “Lady with a Pearl Hairnet” which Federico Borromeo purchased and attributed explicitly to the hand of Leonardo da Vinci, “The Basket of Fruit” by Caravaggio, “The Madonna of the Pavilion” by Sandro Botticelli and the “Codex Atlanticus” by Leonardo da Vinci. However, during the second time, after my interest in Italian art (in particular painting) had become stronger and stronger, I paid a more detailed visit to the art gallery and the library and I found many more “treasures” than I expected. For example, I saw “The Adoration of the Magi” by Titian, “The Holy Family with Sts. Anne and John” and “The Infant Jesus with a Lamb” by Luini, “The Adoration” by Bramantino, the works of Jan Brueghel commissioned directly by Cardinal Federico Borrome as well as several portraits by Francesco Hayez. In the library, besides the “Codex Atlanticus”, there are around 30,000 manuscripts, which range from Greek and Latin to Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopian, Turkish and Persian.
In the consecutive three posts, I’ll give you a rather detailed introduction to the most important works in the Ambrosian Art Gallery, to the historical rooms where they are exhibited and to the Ambrosian Library. In general, the three posts will be arranged according to the itinerary I took inside the gallery but in each of them, I’ll include two or three of the “absolute highlights“. For example, in the 1st post, I’ll focus on “The Basket of Fruit” by Caravaggio and the “Preparatory Cartoon of the School of Athens” by Raphael; in the 2nd post, I’ll focus on the “Lady with a Pearl Hairnet” attributed to the hand of Leonardo da Vinci, “The Portrait of a Musician” by Leonardo da Vinci and “The Madonna of the Pavilion” by Sandro Botticelli; and in the 3rd post, I’ll focus on the “Codex Atlanticus” by Leonardo da Vinci and the Ambrosian Library. Please note, besides admiring these absolute masterpieces, some other important works by Titian, Luini, Jan Brueghel, and Francesco Hayez as well as the historical rooms are also worth your attention. Now, let’s get started with some practical information such as the opening hours and admission fees of the gallery and then, I’ll present to you the marvelous “Basket of Fruit”.
1. Practical information
1.1 Opening hours
- Tuesday to Sunday: from 10:00 to 18:00
- last admission to the gallery is at 17:30
- the gallery is closed on Mondays, 1st January, Easter Sunday (open on Easter Monday) and 25th December.
1.2 Admission fees
- Full price : € 15
- Reduced price (under 18 or over 65 years old & university students): € 10
- Reduced price (Milanocard holders): € 13
- Children under 14 accompanied by a paying adult (max. 5 children per adult)
- Licensed tourist guides
- Journalists (only for professional reasons and with advance authorization from the museum, e-mail: email@example.com)
- Standard audioguide: € 1
- Smart audioguide: € 3
Please note, it’s also possible to reserve and book the tickets online but a booking fee of € 1.5 per ticket will be applied. In my opinion, if you are traveling by yourself or in a small group (less than 10 people), you can just buy the ticket on site, but you are in a large group of more than 10 people, it is compulsory to make a reservation. For more information about booking for groups (either social or school groups) or the conditions for reduced-price or free tickets, please click here.
1.3 How to get there
The gallery is located in the center of Milan and only 5 mins away by foot from the Duomo. I suggest you take public transport to the Duomo and then walk directly there.
2. “The Basket of Fruit” by Caravaggio
In my third post about the Pinacoteca Brera in Milan, I gave a rather detailed introduction to Caravaggio including his biography and contributions to western art. If you are interested, please click here and take a look. To sum up, he was an Italian painter active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily from the early 1590s to 1610. Similar to Giorgione and Raphael, he died early (38 years old) and mysteriously, but became one of the most important figures in art history. His paintings combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, and they had a formative influence on Baroque painting.
In 1592 Caravaggio left Milan for Rome, running away from the penalty for “certain quarrels” and the wounding of a police officer. A few months after his arrival, he was working for the highly successful Giuseppe Cesari, Pope Clement VIII’s favourite artist, painting flowers and fruit in his workshop. Gradually, Caravaggio became the most famous painter in Rome at the beginning of the 17th century. Nevertheless, his reputation as a highly successful painter was compromised by his violent, touchy and provocative character. He was notorious for brawling and on 29th May 1606, he killed, possibly unintentionally, a young man named Ranuccio Tomassoni from Terni (Umbria) and fled to Naples. In around five years, he moved from Rome to Naples, to Malta, to Sicily and then back to Naples. It is said he died on his final return from Naples to Rome but the cause remains a mystery. Disease or revenge? The discussion is still held among scholars. Caravaggio’s influence can be seen directly or indirectly in the works of Peter Paul Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Rembrandt. As commented by the 20th-century art historian André Berne-Joffroy, “what begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting.”
Now let’s come back to the painting itself. Please note, together with the folios of the “Codex Atlanticus” by Leonardo da Vinci, it is exhibited in the Ambrosian Library, the last hall you will pass through during your visit. Standing out on one end of the library, the “Basket of Fruit” is specially lit, which shows the “privilege” and particular emphasis that it enjoys. Once you step into the library from the gallery, on your left and right are the drawings by da Vinci and right in front of you is this painting. You can’t miss it. Why do you think it has earned such a central and significant location, or in other words, respect and appreciation? Let’s explore the reasons together. Firstly, let’s read a detailed description of the content by Jules Janick:
“This basket contains a peach, a summer fruit, suggesting that this image was painted first. Six different fruits are visible. The uppermost fruit is a good-sized, light-red peach attached to a stem with wormholes in the leaf resembling damage by oriental fruit moth (Orthosia hibisci). Beneath it is a single bicolored apple, shown from a stem perspective with two insect entry holes, probably codling moth, one of which shows secondary rot at the edge; one blushed yellow pear with insect predations resembling damage by leaf roller (Archips argyospita); four figs, two white and two purple—the purple ones dead ripe and splitting along the sides, plus a large fig leaf with a prominent fungal scorch lesion resembling anthracnose (Glomerella cingulata); and a single unblemished quince with a leafy spur showing fungal spots. There are four clusters of grapes, black, red, golden, and white; the red cluster on the right shows several mummified fruit, while the two clusters on the left each show an overripe berry. There are two grape leaves, one severely desiccated and shriveled while the other contains spots and evidence of an egg mass. In the right part of the basket are two green figs and a ripe black one is nestled in the rear on the left. On the sides of the basket are two disembodied shoots: to the right is a grape shoot with two leaves, both showing severe insect predations resembling grasshopper feeding; to the left is a floating spur of quince or pear.”
What a detailed description! On the other hand, if the painting was not painted with such great care, how could Jules Janick, a distinguished professor who is particularly good at words and the English language, introduce it in this way? The descriptions such as “blushed yellow pear”, “dead ripe and splitting“, “unblemished quince”, “mummified fruit”, “severely desiccated and shriveled“, “disembodied shoots” as well as the possible causes of the decaying of the fruits are not Janick’s imagination but his keen and genuine observation. It feels like he was describing the real fruits in a basket instead of the painting.
The dating of this piece of work is still under debate among scholars but what we know for certain is that this is an early artistic production by Caravaggio, executed when he dedicated particular attention to the naturalistic depiction of objects. Some source assumes that it was created in 1597 or 1598 but Catherine Puglisi believes that 1601 is more probable because the basket in this painting seems identical with the one in the first of Caravaggio’s two versions of “Supper at Emmaus“. As a gift, it was given by Cardinal Del Monte to Cardinal Federico Borromeo in 1618 (turismo.milano.it), who shared the same passion for art and art collection. Since then, this work became one of Borromeo’s favorites and it belongs to a group of paintings with natural subjects, such as the collection of still life paintings by the Flemish artist Bruegel. An interesting fact about the painting is that a recent X-ray study revealed it was painted on a used canvas probably belonging Caravaggio’s friend Prospero Orsi, who helped the artist get acquainted with his first patron, Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte. The canvas was originally longer, but of the same height and underneath the image, scholars, with the help of X-rays, have found the right end of a frieze of putti and garlands probably by Prospero Orsi.
As I mentioned above, one particularly noteworthy feature of this painting, which attracted its original owners as well as the attention nowadays, is its extremely realistic, or in other words, photograph-like depiction. Moreover, what also makes it an absolute masterpiece is how the artist developed a new way to see painting and still life. As commented on theartpostblog, Caravaggio with his “Basket of Fruit” gave still life new dignity, by putting it on the same level as painting of human figure. The colors of the fruits contrast with the bright, featureless background, which makes the “protagonist” stand out and brings all the attention onto the foreground image. Before in Italy, “still life” was only a decorative addition (respectful rendering of fruit, linen, etc. but is always related with figures) and there were only occasional cases of “pure” still life painting, a pictorial genre which had already existed and had a long tradition, and whose undisputed masters had been the Flemish painters. Caravaggio’s “Basket of Fruit” is considered to be the first Italian still life painting and is the only independent still life of the artist that has survived and been attributed securely. Thanks to him, this genre became an independent subject, achieved much popularity and has been developing in Italy and across Europe during his lifetime and after.
It was in Rome that Cardinal Federico Borromeo, who had special interest in Northern European painters, became a house guest of Cardinal Del Monte and met Jan Brueghel the Elder, who followed him and became part of the Cardinal’s household. He produced many landscape and flower paintings for the Cardinal and in the next post, I’ll introduce to you in particular the spectacular “Flowers in a Vase with Jewels, Coins, and Shells”. As I read from Wikipedia, possibly, it was also during this time that Borromeo saw the way Caravaggio did still life as accessories in paintings such as “Boy Bitten by a Lizard” and “Bacchus” in Del Monte’s collection, and “The Lute Player” in the collection of Del Monte’s friend Vincenzo Giustiniani, an aristocratic Italian banker, art collector and intellectual. He wrote a treatise on painting years later, “placing flowers ‘and other tiny things’ only fifth on a twelve-scale register”, but he also said that Caravaggio once said to him “that it used to take as much workmanship for him to do a good picture of flowers as it did to do one of human figures.”
With considerable expressive power, this painting gives us the impression that we can almost scent the fragrance and taste the flavour of these fruits. Different from the High Renaissance style, which emphasized ideal beauty, Caravaggio didn’t search for aesthetically pleasing representations. Instead, he searched for reality, “because to him painting meant to accept life as it is, without decorations and with all its imperfections.” As I learnt from turismo.milano.it, the painting expresses the ephemeral nature of earthly things, or in other words, the fading beauty and natural decaying of all things, a theme that was often discussed by the two Cardinals in their letters. As commented on caravaggio.org, the leaves summarize the life cycle. The one on the upper left is still reaching towards the sun, the ones on the lower left are drooping, and the ones on the right are withering and dying. No wonder one can see the reflection on life and death in this picture.
Last but not least, let’s take a look at the position of the basket. It stands on a flat surface, but we don’t know for certain if it is a table, a shelf or something else. Like the one in the first version of Caravaggio’s “Supper at Emmaus”, the basket seems to teeter on the edge of the surface, about to fall out of the picture into the viewer’s space. In the “Supper at Emmaus”, this device was used to create drama and tension of the scene but here, trompe l’oeil seems to be the purpose.
Now, before taking you to the first room of the gallery, I’ll introduce to you Room 5, where the the original “Preparatory Cartoon of the School of Athens” by Raphael is exhibited. As I read from the info board on site, this cartoon is undoubtedly the most precious artwork of not only the Ambrosian Art Gallery but also the city of Milan.
The “Preparatory Cartoon of the School of Athens” by Raphael
Raphael, together with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, are the three most outstanding artists of the Italian Renaissance and his most renowned work is probably the “School of Athens“, painted between 1509 and 1511 as a part of the artist’s commission to decorate the rooms now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The cartoon, which is now part of the collection of the Ambrosian Art Gallery, played a vital role in helping the artist realize the fresco and make it one of the best examples of the High Renaissance art. As you can see from the picture above, room 5, which remains as it was around 400 years ago, is entirely dedicated to the huge cartoon. In front of it, there are a few chairs where you can sit and admire this masterpiece in peace and comfort. Unfortunately, during my second visit to the gallery (03-2018), the drawing was under restoration and I hope when you get there, the work would have already been completed. In order to better understand this drawing and its connection to the fresco in the Vatican Museums, I listened to the audio guide on mywowo.net and read a very well-written article called “Insights to Art – Raphael’s School of Athens (cartoon)” by Nigel J. Ross. If you wanna know more about the cartoon after reading my post, please click the link and check it out.
Now, let’s come back to the cartoon. First of all, what is a cartoon? A cartoon is a preparatory drawing of a planned fresco and it’s usually made for two reasons. Firstly, they could demonstrate the composition of the work to the commissioner and secondly, they function as a point of reference for the actual work. Unlike “The Last Supper”, which was painted by da Vinci on a dry wall (it was an innovative technique at that time), normal frescoes were painted into wet plaster and had to be completed before it dried. Therefore, planning in advance is necessary. If you take a close look at the cartoon, you will notice the pin-prick holes, which suggest that Raphael used this piece of drawing to copy the outlines onto the wall where the fresco still remains nowadays. As I learnt from Ross’ article, this was done by pricking the cartoon, placing a section on the wet plaster and dusting it with charcoal dust. In this way, when Raphael removed the section of drawing, he could see the marks of the pin-prick holes, and therefore, the key outlines.
What’s special about the “School of Athens” cartoon? Firstly, there is no other model for frescoes as large as this one. Normally, artists didn’t prepare such full-scale cartoons for their frescoes and when necessary, they only sketched the more important sections. However, for Raphael, he was focusing on his new ideas of composition, which required a broad view of the complete work. Secondly, as an artist’s tool, the preparatory drawings were usually abandoned and thrown away. No other compositional studies of the “School of Athens” survived but here, we see a complete one. As commented by Nigel J. Ross, this is the first large-size cartoon that survives and the only full-scale Renaissance cartoon in existence, which provides a unique insight into one of Raphael’s most famous works. As I learnt from the audio guide, Cardinal Federico Borromeo had been trying for more than 15 years before he finally included this masterpiece in his collection in 1625. Its previous owner refused to sell it, and it was only after his death that the Cardinal finally managed to acquire it, with an incredible price of 600 liras.
Now, you are probably wondering what the similarities and differences are between the cartoon and the actual fresco. Luckily, I have been to the Vatican Museums and seen the world-famous “School of Athens”. By making a comparison between them, you will realize how closely the cartoon, drawn in charcoal and white lead, resembles the lower part of the Vatican fresco. In fact, we can even say that the two works are almost identical except for a few changes and additions, for which Raphael left room on purpose. The upper part of the fresco is not shown in the cartoon and it was probably done from another large cartoon or some small drawings. Apart from the upper part and the architectural elements, the most obvious addition in the fresco is the figure of Heraclitus in the centre foreground. Does the look of him remind you of some important artist of the Italian Renaissance? As I learnt from the audio guide, when Raphael was working on the fresco in the Apostolic Palace, he paid a visit to Michelangelo who was decorating the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at that time and therefore, it is commonly assumed that the figure of Heraclitus is the portrait of Michelangelo. Some minor changes can be seen in the figures on both sides of the two central ones, who represent Plato and Aristotle. What’s more, Euclid’s slate is empty in the cartoon but is painted with a geometrical pattern in the fresco. Too complicated to recognize the figures? I recommend you looking at a picture on Wikipedia, which marks the figures in the painting with numbers and tells you who they are.
Since we are talking about the preparatory work of the great “School of Athens”, why not taking this opportunity to take a look at the actual, finished work in the Vatican Museums? Though the figures represent Greek philosophers, can you recognize whose portraits they are? Let me give you a hint. Besides Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael himself are also in the scene. Can you find them?
In 1509 Raphael was commissioned by Pope Julius II to fresco his personal library, the room known at that time as the Stanza della Segnatura since it was there that Pope signed acts of grace. Nowadays, it is one of the Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms), which, as we can tell by the name, are decorated by Raphael, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City. The Stanza della Segnatura was the first of the rooms to be decorated, and “The School of Athens” was probably the third painting to be finished there. Originally, Pope Julius II wanted to decorate his library with portraits of great writers and thinkers. Instead of painting simple sets of portraits, Raphael contemplated on this idea and came up with four large frescoes representing Theology, Philosophy, Literature and Law. “The School of Athens” brings together the most famous Greek philosophers from different ages in an imaginary academy of philosophy.
Particularly eye-catching in the fresco are the two figures in the middle, at the vanishing point of the architecture. On the left is Plato while on the right is his student, Aristotle. Both figures hold bound copies of their books in their left hands, while gesturing with their right. Plato, depicted as an old and wise-looking man, holds his Timaeus and Aristotle, depicted as a handsome mature man, holds his Nicomachean Ethics. Their gestures are rather curious because Plato seems to point to the sky (which also appears in many of Leonardo’s masterpieces), an indication of his Theory of Forms which refers to the belief that the material world as it seems to us is not the real world, but only an “image” or “copy” of the real world, while Aristotle, with his palm facing the ground, seems to say that natural science forms the basis of knowledge and all theories and hypothesis must be tested against observations of the natural world. The two philosophers’ concepts contradict with each other but they influenced the two main schools of thinking in the Renaissance. As I learnt from Ross’ article, the rest of the philosophers are arranged either on Plato’s or Aristotle’s side, depending on whose ideas are closer to their own. When Raphael painted this fresco, he was only 26 – 28 years old and how did he have all the detailed knowledge about the ancient Greek philosophers? As suggested on Wikipedia, he might have had guidance from people such as Bramante, or maybe a detailed plan was told directly by his patron, Pope Julius II.
Besides Plato and Aristotle, who are the other philosophers? I recommend you checking out the picture on Wikipedia because all the identifiable figures are marked with numbers and their names. In brief, the most famous ones, to me, from left to right are:
- Epicurus with a laurel on his head.
- Pythagoras, who is sitting and with a pen and an ink pot in his hands, noting down his ideas from the diagram on the slate in front of him. He is credited with many mathematical and scientific discoveries, including the Pythagorean theorem.
- Alexander the Great, depicted as a young man with his right hand resting on his waist and his left holding a sword.
- Hypatia, the first female mathematician whose life is reasonably well recorded.
- Socrates, who is in green cloak and with his gesture, seems to be arguing.
- Heraclitus, who is in the foreground thinking, leaning against a table with a pen in his hand. It was him who said that “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”
- Diogenes, who is lying on the steps with a bowl next to him. He was one of the founders of Cynic philosophy, which emphasizes returning to nature and advocates simple life free from all possessions. I once read a story between Diogenes and Alexander the Great and I’d like to share it here. While Diogenes was relaxing in the morning sunlight, Alexander, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, asked if he could do anything for him. Diogenes replied, “Yes, stand out of my sunlight.” Alexander then declared, “If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes.” In another version of the conversation, Alexander found the philosopher looking closely at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, “I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave.”
- Archimedes, who is leaning down at the right bottom corner of the fresco and measuring a geometric figure with a compass. As the greatest mathematician of antiquity and one of the greatest of all time, he not only rigorously prove a range of geometrical theorems, including the area of a circle, the surface area and volume of a sphere, but also derived an accurate approximation of pi.
- Zoroaster and Ptolemy, who are holding the globes. The latter developed the geocentric model.
- Raphael. Who does he represent? He represents himself, implying that artists are about to enter the Palace of Wisdom.
In certain figures, Raphael modeled their faces on ancient Greek busts of the philosophers themselves. However, in most cases, it was difficult to find their specific facial features. Therefore, like what Michelangelo did while decorating the Sistine Chapel, Raphael “attached” the faces of his contemporaries to a number of figures in the fresco. For example, Plato is believed to be portrayed as Leonardo da Vinci, Archimedes resembles the architect, painter and topographer Bramante, Hypatia is reminiscent of Raphael’s mistress Margarita Luti, and as I mentioned above, Heraclitus is portrayed as Michelangelo and Raphael’s self-portrait can also be found in the fresco.
If you are interested in Italian Renaissance art, how can you miss Raphael’s works? If you are a fan of Raphael, how can you miss his “School of Athens”? I have to say it was an amazing experience looking into the mind of the great artist when he was making the preparatory work and making a comparison between the actual fresco and its cartoon. If you come to Milan, don’t miss the drawing and if you go to the Vatican City, don’t miss the fresco. I hope that the restoration work will be finished soon and by that time I’d like to pay a third visit to the gallery and take an even closer look at the “Preparatory Cartoon of the School of Athens”. Now, let’s go to the first room of the gallery.
The first room of the gallery exhibits works by masters of the Venetian School and by followers of Leonardo da Vinci. Donated by Cardinal Federico Borrome in 1618, they were also mentioned in his treatise “Musaeum“, published in 1625. Particular noteworthy are Luini’s “The Holy Family with Sts. Anne and John” and “The Infant Jesus with a Lamb” and Titian’s “The Adoration of the Magi”.
“The Holy Family with Sts. Anne and John” by Bernardino Luini
Bernardino Luini is said to have worked with Leonardo directly and as commented by David Freedberg, he has taken “as much from Leonardo as his native roots enabled him to comprehend”. During his stay in Rome, he was influenced by Raphael but in his later career, he became increasingly interested in Leonardo, as we can see in “The Holy Family with Sts. Anne and John” exhibited here. Probably because of the similarities between Luini’s and his great master’s artistic styles, his works were frequently attributed to Leonardo. As exemplified in the “Madonna del Roseto” now exhibited in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, graceful female figures with elongated eyes are characteristic of his works.
This painting is very close to Leonardo’s style and in it you can easily see the resemblance of Leonardo’s “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne” now exhibited in the Louvre Museum. However, if you make a comparison between it and Leonardo’s drawing “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist” (I don’t know why but I can’t see St. John the Baptist in the drawing), now preserved in the National Gallery in London, you will notice Luini’s painting is the realization in oil of the drawing in charcoal and black and white chalk because except for the figure of St. John the Baptist, they are almost identical. As mentioned when I was introducing Raphael’s “Preparatory Cartoon of the School of Athens”, a cartoon was usually used as a tool to transfer the preparatory drawing to a board or wall by pricking the outline. In “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist”, no such evidence has been found, which suggests that either the drawing was done as a work of art in its own right or for some reason, Leonardo didn’t execute the actual painting he had planned.
“The Infant Jesus with a Lamb” by Bernardino Luini
This small and peaceful painting is among Cardinal Federico Borromeo’s favorites. Baby Jesus hugs the lamb softly and is looking out of the picture frame towards the viewer. Borromeo commented that the simple setting as well as the emotional connection established by the painter between the protagonist in the ecclesiastical world and the observer in the real world are the most outstanding and charming features of the artwork.
“Christ Crowned with Thorns” by Bernardino Luini
Just a reminder. In the second last room of your visit, where Leonardo’s “The Portrait of a Musician” is exhibited, you will see a fresco by Luini. Commissioned in 1522 for a chapel of a church which later became part of the Ambrosian Gallery, it miraculously survived the bombing during the Second World War.
“The Adoration of the Magi” by Titian
Titian, one of my favorite painters of all time, is the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian School. As commented on Wikipedia, equally adept at portraits, landscapes and mythological and religious subjects, he was recognized by his contemporaries as “The Sun Amidst Small Stars“. His artistic style, characterized by the skillful use of color, influenced not only painters of the Italian Renaissance but also future generations of western art.
The theme depicted here in this painting is very popular in western art, that is to say, “Adoration of the Magi” or “Adoration of the Kings”. The three Magi, represented as kings, having found Baby Jesus by following a star, lay before him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worship him. This is a late work by Titina and in it we can clearly see the artist’s mastery over color.
By now, I have finished the first post about the Ambrosian Art Gallery and I explained in detail two masterpieces including the “Basket of Fruit” by Caravaggio (in the library) and the “Preparatory Cartoon of the School of Athens” by Raphael (in Room 5). Taking this opportunity, I also presented to you Raphael’s (most) famous fresco “The School of Athens” in the Raphael Rooms in Vatican City. In the next post, I’ll focus on introducing to you “The Portrait of a Musician” by Leonardo da Vinci, the only oil painting by this master in Milan and “The Portrait of a Woman” or “Lady with a Pearl Hairnet” which Federico Borromeo purchased and attributed explicitly to the hand of Leonardo da Vinci. What’s more, I’ll take you to go through some more rooms of the Ambrosian Art Gallery and recommend you some works by Sandro Botticelli, Bramantino, Jacopo Bassano, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Salai and so on. Can you tell the difference between Salai’s and Leonardo’s “St. John the Baptist”?