I’m unashamedly a big fan of the mega museums. I keep lists and tick them off. Yes, I’m that geeky. But it’s also important to recognise the great collections elsewhere. Recently my travels took me to Bergamo and the Accademia Carrara.
It has recently undergone a makeover (it was closed from 2008-15) and the result is impressive. This is one of the best run museumsI’ve been to in Italy. So good, it’s almost maddening. I left feeling frustrated that all Italian museums couldn’t be as well organised as this one. Good audio, very well lit, dual language on everything, from the picture labels to the sign-up sheets, so you can receive the email updates. That shouldn’t sound a lot, but having spent a few days in better known institutions in Milan, I can tell you for sure that doesn’t always happen.
The permanent collection is impressive: they have a superb Raphael Painting of St Sebastian as well as works by Botticelli, and some superb canvases by Bellini. I’ve put a selection of those at the bottom of the page so you can see the quality.
It’s not just the big names – there are also some great canvasses by lesser known artists such as Andrea Revitali (see above), who combines many of the subtleties and use of colour I so admire in both Lotto and Bellini. There is also a great section with over 20 canvasses of great portraits by Moroni, who was the subject of a fabulously enlightening exhibition at the Royal Academy.
However, what really caught my eye was the small exhibition on local artist Lorenzo Lotto. With around a dozen works, including loans from Madrid and various Italian institutions, they have really added well to the number of works already in the collection and, if you get chance to see it before it ends on 26th February – take it.
Cleverly, the churches and other institutions around the attractive historic centre have also joined in and made seeing other works something of a tour. Bergamo is within easy reach of the airport and it is very easy to combine it with a trip to Milan. A stone’s throw from the fine renaissance church, is the little square in which I spent New Year’s Eve – it is enchanting and the local food very good; even if a little too polenta-driven for my tastes.
The landscape in the Lotto picture of the Mystic Marriage of St Catherine of Alexandrea at the top of this post was considered so good a soldier actually cut it out and left us to admire the rest. There are many fine paintings but the the self-portrait from the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid which has become the poster for the whole show is probably my favourite, but also reflects a bias towards portraiture. The famous, yet unusual, nighttime Portrait of Lucina Brembati is an Italian play on words: the moon in the upper left background contains the inscription “CI”, which, in Italian, reads as “LuCIna”, i.e. “little light”, or, indeed, “little moon”.
I’ve posted both of these below.
Give Bergamo a try and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.