Welcome to the virtual tour of the Bicocca degli Arcimboldi, which will take you through the history and rooms of this wonderful Renaissance building, now the official reception centre of the Pirelli Group. Here are some useful tips to give you a better browsing experience.
You can walk virtually through the rooms, moving in any direction, to whichever room or floor you like, using the arrows you see on the main screen.
A fixed icon at the top right gives you direct access to the various rooms and lets you examine the information that will enrich your virtual experience. Press the button at the bottom right to access this content. The Pirelli Foundation has selected documents and images that let you discover the history of the villa and its close bond with the company.
You can save time by pressing the button at the bottom left, which will take you directly to the next room.
Enjoy the tour!
The Pirelli Foundation staff
An all-female hall
The Sala delle Dame (the “Ladies’ Hall”) offers a very rare depiction of ladies’ lives in an aristocratic residence. It is in the part of the villa that was reserved for the women of the family. The scenes, of which there were originally eight, illustrate and celebrate a typical day in the life of virtuous ladies in the early Renaissance. With the hairstyles, hats, clothes and gracefulness of the figures, the style recalls that of the Umbrian painter Masolino da Panicale. The series of frescoes might date from the second half of the fifteenth century.
The room is divided by superimposed columns surmounted by Corinthian capitals resting on tall plinths. These “candelabra” rise up to a complex frieze, with fantastic animals and acanthus leaves intertwined around plant crowns, running the entire length of the beamed ceiling. Looking at the frescoes, one has the impression that one is under an imaginary arcade. The pavilion awnings are tied with red ribbons to the top of the columns, thus revealing the scenes below. The background of the whole room, which now tends towards green, was originally blue, a colour that was obtained by grinding precious lapis lazuli. This shows how important this series of frescoes was, also in terms of the materials used.
The frescoes on the walls of the “Ladies’ Hall” illustrate the various moments during the daily life of noblewomen in the fifteenth century
The scenes in the hall are separated by painted architectural elements, consisting of superimposed columns of different orders resting on large plinths
Detail of a damaged scene in the “Ladies’ Hall” with a large table
Coffered ceiling beneath which runs a frieze with grotesque decorations, mixing plant and geometric motifs with monstrous figures
Two winged amorini pull back the edges of the canopy to show us the scene below: two ladies are seen preparing the large wedding bed while another two rummage around in the chest at the foot of the bed and pull out a basin and, possibly, a mirror that their lady will use for her morning toilet. As was customary at the time, the women we see might be life portraits of members of the Arcimboldi family.
Music in the villa
The scene shows six ladies beneath the canopy, playing musical instruments and singing. The moment following the awakening, which we saw in the previous scene, is accompanied by music, which was very much part of the life of the nobility during the Renaissance. The instruments played by the noblewomen include a harp and a lute.
Before the mirror
Six ladies see to their lady’s morning toilet. The lady of the house, possibly the wife of Guido Antonio Arcimboldi, whose name we do not know, is in front of a mirror, having her blonde coazzone combed, or perhaps sprinkled with oil. This typical Spanish braid was all the rage in the last quarter of the fifteenth century.
The game of draughts
The maids of honour amuse themselves playing a board game that would appear to be that of draughts. Some of them, two of whom are seated, challenge each other, while others look on. The one at the centre has her hands around the pole that supports the canopy, while the one next to her looks away from the scene. The following two episodes have come down to us damaged and we can only see a laid table and some female figures standing.
Cutting and sewing
Beneath the canopy, five ladies are busy cutting and sewing. In particular, two women are using large shears to cut a long white fabric folded on a work table, while another two – possibly in the company of a younger lady – embroider and sew. A dwarf woman, a figure that often appears at the courts of noble and royal families, observes them. Like the previous ones, this scene unfolds behind a fence made of intertwined branches and a hedge, which create a series of visual planes.