Bisi Luigi, Interior of Milan Cathedral
FCIP 0047.jpg
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1,840; oil on canvas
cm. 181 x 139
Signed and dated bottom right: “Bisi 1840”
Inventory: FCIP 0047
Provenance: (until 1972) Exhibitions: 1840, Milan, no. 130; 1928, Milan, no. 52; 1998, Brescia, no. 23 Vienna, Belvedere Gallery; 1928, Milan, Galleria Scopinich; Milan, Piero Benni Collection (until 1972)
Exibition: 1840, Milano, n. 130; 1928, Milano, n. 52; 1998, Brescia , n. 23; 2018, Da Tiepolo a Richter, l'Europa che dialoga , Bruxelles, Cinquantenarie Museum (24 maggio - 30 settembre), senza catalogo

Acquired by the Cariplo Foundation from a private collection, the painting can be identified with the canvas commissioned in 1828 by Emperor Ferdinand I while in Milan for his coronation as King of Lombard-Veneto. The painting entered the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna but, following the financial setbacks experienced by the Habsburg monarchy, it had to be auctioned with a large group of Italian 19th-century works at the Galleria Scopinich, Milan, in 1928.

The Milanese art world had hailed Bisi as the sole heir of Giovanni Migliara, the master from Alessandria, since his death in 1837, but it was the imperial commission of 1838 and the exhibition of the canvas at the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera in 1840 that set the official seal on Bisi’s success. The perspective view of the interior of Milan Cathedral was reproduced in an engraving in the Album of the exhibition that year, which was accompanied by a long entry describing the work’s extraordinary pictorial qualities, from the architecture depicted in the finest detail to the artist’s ability to render the variations in the light pouring into the interior through the stained-glass windows (executed by the Bertini brothers’ workshop). From 1830 on, Bisi had made various watercolour copies of Migliara’s works, but he rapidly moved on from the traditional scenographic approach to the subject and rendered it in a more lifelike way, perhaps also with the help of the illustrated catalogues of the most famous Italian and foreign monuments, which circulated widely in the 19th century. Ferdinand I probably commissioned the painting because he wished to own an accurate depiction of the city’s monument par excellence, which the artist showed in all its grandeur and solemnity. The result is a remarkably striking and spiritual image, created through the low viewpoint that accentuates the height of the vaulted ceilings, and the framing that gives the viewer the feeling of being near the main altar around which a small crowd of worshippers are gathered. Bisi produced various versions of this subject in the course of the thirty years he devoted to perspective views of Italy’s most important monuments. His stylistic approach remained virtually unaltered, as can be seen, for example, in The Interior of Milan Cathedral (Milan, Galleria d’Arte Moderna)  and The Interior of  Orsanmichele of 1869 (Milan, Palazzo Isimbardi), the subject preferred by the artist during his mature period.

From November 2011, the work has been on view at the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan.

Sources:Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Patrimonio Cariplo, Opere d’arte. Atti d’acquisto ex Cariplo. Fald. 1/3, pratica no. 879 R/458


Cenni critici intorno alla esposizione degli artisti e dei dilettanti nelle gallerie dell'I. R. Accademia di belle arti in Milano. Anno 1840, C. Tinelli, Milano, 1840, n. 130, pp. 14-15;
Benedetto Bermani, Interno del Duomo di Milano. Quadro di Luigi Bisi, in Album. Esposizione di Belle Arti in Milano, C. Canadelli, Milano, 1840, pp. 15-19, ill. p. 15;
Ignazio Fumagalli, Esposizione di Belle Arti, in "Biblioteca Italiana, ossia giornale di letteratura, scienza ed arti", XCII, Milano, 1840, pp. 116-117;
F. Sebregondi, Luigi Bisi. Commemorazione, F. Manini, Milano, 1886, p. 13;
Romantici italiani provenienti dalla Casa d'Austria e collezione Bolasco, catalogo di vendita, Milano, Galleria Scopinich, 1928, Rizzoli & C., Milano, 1928, n. 51, tav. II;
Mostra dei Maestri di Brera (1776-1859), catalogo della mostra, Milano, Palazzo della Permanente, febbraio-aprile 1975, Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente, Milano, 1975, p. 160;
Giovanna Ginex, Bisi, Luigi, in Enrico Castelnuovo, a cura di, La pittura in Italia. L'Ottocento, Electa, Milano, 1991, II, p. 701;
Tesori d'arte delle banche lombarde, Associazione Bancaria Italiana, Milano, 1995, p. 222, ill. n. 409;
Paola Segramora, Luigi Bisi, Veduta dell’interno del Duomo di Milano, in Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, Angelo Inganni 1807-1880: un pittore bresciano nella Milano romantica, catalogo della mostra, Brescia, Palazzo Bonoris, 18 aprile-30 agosto 1998, Skira, Milano, 1998, n. 23, pp. 204-205, ill.;
Paola Zatti, Luigi Bisi, Veduta dell’interno del Duomo di Milano, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le Collezioni d’arte. Il Novecento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 29, pp. 92-94, ill.;
Sergio Rebora, L’immagine di Milano nella pittura dell’Ottocento. La pinacoteca della Fondazione Cariplo, in “Ca’ de Sass”, n. 149-150, Cariplo, Milano, aprile-agosto 2001, p. 49, ill. p. 50;
Fernando Mazzocca, Il Romanticismo 1815-1848, in Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, Ottocento lombardo. Arti e decorazione, Skira, Ginevra-Milano, 2006, ill. p. 165. ;
Elena Lissoni, in Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, Da Canova a Boccioni. Le collezioni della Fondazione Cariplo e di Intesa Sanpaolo, Skira, Milano, 2011, n. V.59, p. 199, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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