Palazzo Archinto

Dating back to the fifteenth century, Palazzo Archinto gives onto present-day Via Olmetto and Via Piatti.

It passed from the Del Conte, the oldest registered owners, to the Visconti by way of inheritance and then to Filippo Archinto (1644-1712) at the end of the seventeenth century. He purchased several adjacent buildings and had the rooms of Palazzo Archinto decorated with frescoes by Andrea Lanzani assisted by Marcantonio Chiarini, a painter of quadratura. In 1715 the complex was inherited by Carlo Archinto (1669-1732), son of Filippo and of Camilla Stampa; Carlo’s interest in art and architecture and his patronage relationship with Filippo Argelati suggest that he was the one who renovated the building, enriching it with many works of art and an extensive library, as is recorded in Descrizione di Milano, 1737, by Serviliano Latuada. Palazzo Archinto was at the height of its splendour at this time, having been decorated with a cycle of frescoes between 1730 and 1731 by Giambattista Tiepolo and several of his assistants, among whom were Vittorio Bigari and quadraturist Stefano Orlandi. The subjects of the paintings, which were commissioned by Carlo Archinto to celebrate the marriage of his eldest son Filippo (1697-1751) to Giulia Borromeo, included: The Apotheosis of Romulus, The Coronation of Bacchus and Ariadne, Juno, Fortuna and Venus, The Triumph of Art and Sciences, Time Discovers the Truth, Apollo and Phaethon, Stories of Scipio and Perseus and Andromeda. Alessandro Magnasco worked at the site where, together with an anonymous landscapist, he painted four sopraporte with Allegories of the Four Elements.

The structure of Palazzo Archinto, the result of a grouping together of several adjacent buildings, takes on an irregular shape: its quadrangular colonnaded courtyard, which can be accessed from Via Olmetto and whose portal was made by Carlo Amati in 1817, can be considered as the cornerstone of architectural reform during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, its creator, however, remaining unknown. A second smaller courtyard is separated from the rear garden by a slanting arm: that is, a double colonnade with a terrace on top that originally connected the residential body to the storage buildings. The servants’ quarters and storage buildings were situated on the ground floor and a monumental staircase on the right-hand side of the main courtyard led up to the noble floor above where, after passing through a series of fresco-decorated rooms, one reached the ‘audience chamber’. The masters’ living quarters included a chapel and precious library with carved walnut shelves, which looked onto the garden.

With no direct heirs, Carlo Archinto (1734-1804), Filippo’s son, nominated Giuseppe Archinto (1783-1861), son of his cousin Luigi (1742-1821) as his universal heir. In 1825 Giuseppe sold Palazzo Archinto to Giuseppe Tirelli, who, in turn, sold to a third party the portion of the complex that corresponds to today’s Via Piatti, 6. Between 1805 and 1839, the so-called neo-Gothic brick ‘turret’ overlooking the garden was built, distinguished by its ogival arches and embattlements. In 1853 the Amministrazione dei Luoghi Pii Elemosinieri (administration of almoners’ charity houses) – today’s ASP Golgi-Redaelli – purchased the property and converted it into its main offices.

Palazzo Archinto was badly damaged during air raids in 1943, its internal decorations including the cycles by Lanzani, Tiepolo and Magnasco almost totally destroyed. It was then rebuilt between 1955 and 1967 according to a project by architect Luigi Dodi. Today, what remains of the original 18th-century structure, besides the front facade, is the entry courtyard and the terrace with its balustrade that overlooks the small garden, which boasts the oldest wisteria plant in Milan. Of the Tiepolesque decorative cycles, a fresco medallion in the Council Chamber accredited to Vittorio Bigari has survived, as has a large fragment by Tiepolo, which is now in the Civiche Raccolte d’Arte Applicata in Sforzesco Castle.

Today Palazzo Archinto houses the historical archive and the painting collection.