The Biblioteca Ambrosiana ( Library) in Milan, housed along with the Pinoteca Ambroisiana (Art Gallery) is one of the great repositories of European culture
Skybook ( Librocielo ) – Lights and Voices reflecting upon life in Milan’s Roman heart – was held at the Biblioteca Pinacoteca Accademia Ambrosiana during the Salone 2012.
The city of Milan historically has two hearts, two sites that have contributed equally to establish its unique identity.
>> The first, the ancient Celtic forest – mother/matter of the city – was re-evoked in Piazza San Fedele during the 2011 Salone, with the event “The Arbour”
>> The ‘second’ heart of the city of Milan – the literary culture that goes back to the Roman classical world.
“Skybook” a multimedia installation designed by Attilio Stocchi, was dedicated to the origins of Milan during the classical Roman period
“Skybook” is an event that unfolds inside and around the Ambrosiana, a unique journey of light and sound whose fulcra are the Sala Federiciana and the Cortile degli Spiriti Magni, where visitors could see and hear “books dialoguing with one another”
“Books are full of the words of the sages, examples of the ancients, their customs, laws and religion. They are alive, they speak to us, teach us, console us” (from a letter written by Cardinal Bessarione to the Doge of Venice, Cristoforo Moro, displayed in the Pronaos of the Ambrosiana)
During the journey, visitors will enter a new and visionary world, witnessing imaginary dialogues between talking books. Swaths of light, like guiding voices, will help them understand the relationships between the ancient volumes.
This idea of allowing books to speak for themselves is consistent with the philosophy of Cosmit, which seeks to combine commercial events like the Salone with purely cultural ones.
Project by Attilio Stocchi – with Laura Trovalusci, Laura Crespi and Enrico Prato
Audio and lighting: Volume Srl
Display installation: Way Spa
The vibrant center of all Roman cities was the Forum, at the intersection of the Cardo and Decuman, the commercial, administrative and judiciary heart of the city.
In 1609, in the area of Milan’s ancient forum, between Piazza Santo Sepolcro and Piazza Pio XI, Cardinal Federico Borromeo built the Ambrosiana with the aim of conserving the ancient past and “protecting the pictorial and literary vestiges of the Classical world”.
“Skybook” is an homage to Roman Milan, to the Mediolanum that was the capital of the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 402 AD but above all to the literary paternity/patrimony that has come down to us from antiquity.
Why not, therefore, “illuminate and give voice” to the extraordinary quantity of texts conserved in the Ambrosiana that have contributed so much to our knowledge ?
Books illustrate the origins of the distinctive conformation of the city of Milan – the Ambrosiana hosts, among other things, the first planimetric representation of Milan (in a codex by Galvano Fiamma) and the famous sketch by Leonardo da Vinci of the concentric city: “The city is circular in form: its rotundity is the symbol of perfection”, writes Bonvesin de la Riva in Le meraviglie di Milano.
How did people inhabit the Domus of Roman Milan? Was there a hearth at the center of the home ?
Dialogues, reflections on living in a real place from the past yet one that also fills our collective imagination.
The structure of the “dialogue between books” is informed by the concept of the Domus: the load-bearing structure of the Roman city and its society, a representation of it, almost.
Domus as in urban “microcosm”: an empty space right in the centre – an atrium here, a square there – within a built environment pulsating with purpose.
Seen from this angle, the Roman home, split into fragments and its constituent parts reassembled, is a powerful metaphor for a reflection on inhabiting and living a space: the Fauces: protection; the Alae with the statues of hands, household gods and penates: prayer; the Atrium with the hearth below and the sky above: warmth and universum; the triclinium: hospitality.
A multitude of declensions, therefore: Domus as both a windowless bunker and a temple, a tent beneath the sky and a tavern; domus as convivium, inside which we can “all inhabit” the world.
These are the themes of the great library tomes and of the more modern works. From Aulus Gellius’s Attic Nights to Nietzsche’s Aurora; from Martial’s Epigrams to Savinio’s Tragedy of Childhood; from Pliny’s Natural History to Kafka’s Zürau Aphorisms; from Seneca’s Dialogues to Junger’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
The entrance court on Piazza San Sepolcro – the original entrance of the library’s first nucleus – marks the start of the journey, with the statue of Federico Borromeo acting as host. “Federigo conceived this Biblioteca Ambrosiana with great depth of spirit, and erected it with tireless effort from the ground up.
To provide it with manuscripts, in addition to the bequest already collected by him with scholarship and at great expense, he sent eight of the most cultured and expert men he could find to Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Flanders, Greece, Lebanon and Jerusalem. In this way he succeeded in assembling there some thirty thousand printed volumes and fourteen thousand manuscripts”, as Alessandro Manzoni describes the glorious undertaking in The Betrothed.
Cardinal Borromeo’s collection includes a 5th-century illustrated Iliad, early editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy (1353), and the Muratorian Canon (170 AD), the earliest example of an authoritative list of Biblical books
Shortly after the cardinal’s death, the Biblioteca Ambrosiana acquired 12 manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci, including his Codex Atlanticus.
There are now some 12,000 drawings by European artists from the 14th through the 19th centuries, obtained from the collections of a wide range of patrons and artists, academicians, collectors, art dealers, and architects.
The Ambrosian Library, locally known as the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, was the first library in europe to open to the public when it opened in 1609. The library contains more than 750.000 books, including over 30.000 manuscripts.
The library’s most famous book is the Codex Atlanticus, created by Leonardo da Vinci. It contains writings on a diverse number of subjects and is illustrated with more than 1.000 drawings by the master himself
About Federico Borromeo
Federico Borromeo, cousin of Carlo Borromeo, was born in Milan on August 18th 1564 of Giulio Cesare, brother of Giberto, and Margherita Trivulzio.
Federico dreamt of being able to unite a religious life with studies. However, the domineering influence of his cousin Carlo led him to an ecclesiastical career that he was hesitant to pursue.
On June 11th 1595 he was consecrated bishop of Milan and made his entrance into the city on August 27th from Porta Ticinese.
On December 18th 1587 he was made cardinal by Pope Sisto V.
He was also great uncle of the cardinal Federico Borromeo junior (1670). Other cardinals that belong to this family were Giberto Borromeo and Giberto Bartolomeo Borromeo, as well as Vitaliano Borromeo (1766) and Edoardo Borromeo (1868).
Only from 1601 was he officially considered as bishop of the city, due to previous clashes with the Spanish government.
Throughout his life he was an instigator of works of charity and culture.
He set up churches and colleges with his own funds and in 1609 inaugurated the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, with 12.000 manuscripts and 30.000 printed works, plus, the homonymous Pinacoteca.
He dedicated himself to helping citizens during the famine of 1628 and the plague of 1630.
On September 20th 1631 Federico died in his room in his premises in the archdioceses.
He was buried in the Duomo, in front of the altar of the Madonna
The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is an art gallery housed in the Palazzo dell’Ambrosiana, which is also home to a famous library, the Biblioteca Ambrosiana.
Both institutions were founded in the early 17th century by Federico Borromeo.
A cultural complex
Cardinal Federico Borromeo, archbishop of Milan from 1595 until his death in 1631, had a deep interest in the arts and literature.
The cardinal assembled a collection of books from across Europe and the Middle East and founded the Ambrosian Library in 1607.
After expanding his Palazzo dell’ Ambrosiana, where he stored his book collection he opened his library to the public in 1609.
Nine years later Borromeo decided to create an art gallery with 172 of his paintings. In 1920 the creation of the Accademia del Disegno (art academy) completed his ground-breaking cultural project.
The paintings were meant to inspire students of the art academy. The academy later moved to the Adoration of the Magi in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana
The nucleus of the museum’s collection still consists of the 172 original works assembled by Federico Borromeo.
It contains 15th and 16th century paintings from mostly Italian and Flemish masters. About half of the paintings have a religious theme, as the cardinal saw the arts as an ideal medium to educate people about historic religious events. The most famous example is Titian’s Adoration of the Magi. But the collection also contains plenty of non-religious masterpieces such as a painting of a court musician by Leonardo da Vinci.
Even after the opening of his museum, Borromeo continued to expand his collection with important works including Caravaggio’s strikingly realistic ‘Fruit Basket’ and a sketch by Raphael for the ‘School of Athens’, a famous fresco in the Vatican.
Over time the collection of the Ambrosian Art Gallery expanded even further thanks to private donations and now covers artwork from the 15th up to the early 20th century.