Como’s Pinacoteca Civica [civic art gallery] is in Palazzo Volpi in the South-west of the walled city. It opened in 1989 with temporary exhibitions, while refurbishment that began in 2003 has seen the introduction of permanent sections which are still in the progress of completion.
Palazzo Volpi seat of the law courts right up to the nineteen seventies, was originally built in the third decade of the seventeenth century by Ulpiano Volpi, who enjoyed a glittering ecclesiastical career in the Curia romana, thanks to which his family underwent a rapid rise in social status. The plans for the building were in fact sent to Como from Rome, the work of the architect Sergio Venturi from Sienna who had made Rome his home and who is best known for the catafalque he made for Pope Paul V.
The Medieval section is offset to the left of the entrance and occupies the first floor of the building’s south wing, accessed through the Romanesque portal of the church of Santa Margherita. The area is introduced by an educational hall (0.2) that tells the story of the working and re-use of stone, a typical and traditional craft that is very much as part of the Lakeland heritage. The visitor is led through three historical periods, the High Medieval, the Romanesque and the Gothic. The area houses sculptures and fine frescoes from the ancient buildings which have been subsequently demolished or that are no longer accessible.
The Renaissance is to the right of the entrance and is located in three ground floor rooms in the building’s east wing. In the central chamber are displayed a number of sixteenth century portraits from Paolo Giovio’s collection of illustrious men. The two side rooms contain respectively prestigious works from private collections (0.11) and important paintings from Como’s artistic production of the Renaissance period.
The Gallery is located in the rooms on the building’s piano nobile. There are large canvasses of holy subjects from religious buildings that were closed during the Austrian and Napoleonic periods, as well as paintings donated from private collections to the general public after the establishment of the civic museum. It presents a wide range of the works of Como’s principle artists who were working here from the times of the counter reformation to the nineteenth century, including some special examples from the early seventeenth century, baroque paintings and canvasses dating from the eighteenth century.
The twentieth century section is to be found on the palazzo’s second floor, beginning with the photo-ceramic panels by Marcello Nizzoli, which were designed to illustrate the façade of the Casa del Fascio by Giuseppe Terragni. The story is illustrated, with photographs, paintings, sculptures and prototype furnishings, of the salient moments in the creative history of twentieth century Como, from the Futurism of Antonio Sant’Elia, through the Rationalism of Giuseppe Terragni, to the Abstractism of the Como Group and to the Integration of the arts attempted by Ico Parisi.
Open daily except Modnay from 10am to 5.30pm
By walk from Como