Sunday 21 June 2015

Picture post 44 - Casa Galimberti, Milan's art nouveau masterpiece

Via Marcello Malpighi is a quiet street in Milan's Porta Venezia neighbourhood. It is also home to a stunning art nouveau building - Casa Galimberti, built between 1903 and 1905 and designed by architect Giovanni Battista Bossi. The building occupies a corner spot and has elegant balconies, stonework floral motifs and even the fall pipes have small decorative features. But all of this is upstaged by the riot of colour that covers the rest of the exterior. Almost every part of the upper levels is covered in hand painted tiles depicting idyllic scenes, beautiful women, trees, plants, flowers and fruits. The effect is mesmerising. The female figures rival those of Klimt and the Vienna Secession and no doubt impressed the many visitors the city received for the 1906 Expo when Milan showed its new found confidence to a worldwide audience. What could have been more ostentatious than Casa Galimberti?

Bossi was an accomplished architect, having designed a number of tombs in Milan's Cimitero Monumentale for wealthy families as well as several other impressive houses across the city.  He was also a professor of architectural design and co-editor of the journal Italian Architecture. Numerous artisans worked on the decorative features. The tiles were the work of the Ceramic Society of Lombardy whilst the floral elements of the pictures were by a Signor Pinzauti and the figures by Umberto Brambilia. Local ironworkers, Arcari and Ajay of nearby Via Magenta were responsible for the wrought iron details. Casa Galimberti still serves its original functions with shops and cafes on the ground floor and four flats per floor over each of the four upper levels.

The building is perhaps Milan's finest example of Liberty Style - Italy's version of art nouveau, which shares many of the features of Vienna's Secessionism, Riga's Jugendstil and the many other schools of this most decorative style. The city boasts architectural treasures of many styles and from many periods, but this beautiful apartment building is easily my favourite.


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