New Light on Botticelli’s Beauty: Discoveries at the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan

Co-presented with the Power Institute

13 March 2012
Dr Annalisa Zanni


During the 19th century Botticelli was rediscovered in Italy and England. In Italy this happened not only because of the extraordinary beauty of his painting, but also because it could represent a kind of national art in which recently united Italians of the Risorgimento could identify themselves. Among Botticelli’s admirers there was also Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli, who was assisted, in the choice of the works for his collection, by the suggestion of an extraordinary group of advisers. The group included the art historian Giovanni Morelli. Many of Botticelli’s surviving works, now in the Accademia Carrara of Bergamo, came from Morelli’s collection.

Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli left his apartment and private collection as a museum for ‘public use and benefit’. The current Director of the Museum, Dr Annalisa Zanni, presents her recent significant discoveries in Botticelli’s use of materials and technique, as in his "Madonna of the Book" of Poldi Pezzoli Museum. In the final layer of this work for the blue parts he used only lapis lazuli, a very precious and highly expensive ingredient, indicating that it was commissioned by a highly prestigious patron.

Dr Annalisa Zanni

Annalisa Zanni graduated in art history from the Università Statale, Milan, and later undertook postgraduate studies in medieval and modern art history at the University of Florence. She has been working for more than thirty years at the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan, beginning as a curator and later becoming director. At the Poldi Pezzoli she has been in charge of the educational department, conservation, research, and the restoration of the museum’s collections. Since 1992 she has been involved in the new installation of the Armoury by Arnaldo Pomodoro. In the last years she has devised important exhibitions, internal blockbusters, following two main streams as the enhancing of the collection and of the donations arrived to the Museum as well as the study and research of private collecting in Lombardy and Italy.

Since1992-1993 Annalisa Zanni has been teaching the history of Goldsmith’s Art at the postgraduate History of Art at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan. She has created many exhibitions, written books on Renaissance painting, Renaissance jewellery and the history of taste in 19th century, furniture, furnishings, jewellery as well as contributing many essays to the catalogues of the museum’s exhibitions. In 2011 she received the most important dignity of Milan, the Ambrogino d’oro, for her important role devoted to the culture of the city.

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Dr Annalisa Zanni's visit to Sydney was supported by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Sydney.