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The Bicocca degli Arcimboldi

A frescoed staircase

The Bicocca degli Arcimboldi

A frescoed staircase

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

Piero Portaluppi’s staircase

The three flights of stairs designed by Piero Portaluppi in 1953 lead to the first floor of the villa, considerably modifying its internal arrangement: the upper floors were originally accessed only by the stairs inside in the tower on the south facade. The monumental staircase, which is of great visual impact, is flanked by fragments of heavily restored frescoes with scenes of rural life.

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Scenes of courtly life

The series of frescoes on the three walls at the top of the staircase portray the pleasures of life at the villa. They take from the style of the painter Bonifacio Bembo and from the iconographic tradition of the medieval Tacuinum Sanitatis and from northern tapestries showing how the nobility enjoyed their moments of leisure. The frescoes, made with the delicate “fresco a secco” technique, once extended across all four walls of the room. For a time they were plastered over, but were then rediscovered in the early decades of the twentieth century and restored by Mauro Pelliccioli in 1933 and, again, in the 1990s.

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Renaissance music and dancing

Two musicians, the first playing a shawm and the second bagpipes, proceed from left to right, towards a group of dancing figures. The scene is set outside on a lawn with tall shrubs in the distance laden with rich foliage. The musicians’ costumes, with a pointed headdress decorated with a little bell, have a slightly clownish look about them and the high belt reflects the style that was fashionable between about 1450 and 1475.

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The pleasures of rural life

Two ladies are shown working in the fields: one is carrying a bundle of wheat or hay on her shoulder, while the other holds a bunch of herbs or flowers in her hand. Their elegant high-waisted dresses, wide sleeves and hats that hide their hair reflect the Milanese fashion of the second half of the fifteenth century. The landscape is filled with large trees laden with fruit, representing the abundance of nature. A delicate frieze runs along the upper part of the walls, with intertwined flowers and a series of trompe l’oeil brackets.

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Outdoor activities

A woman, sitting on a little bridge, is fishing in a pond with a net. She wears a simple short-sleeved tunic with a wide neckline, a necklace, a cap with some of her hair showing and, next to her, she has a dried gourd as a water bottle. On the left we see part of a large basin (perhaps a container for fish or, more likely, a large basin for pressing grapes) in which she immerses one of her legs. At the top left is a white dove in flight. In the view of some scholars, the scenes in the series of frescoes in this passageway represent the four seasons of the year.

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A place for everyone

At the top of the stairs there is a large space made by joining two separate rooms, probably during a series of changes in use and extensions made over the years. The two original rooms, which were very different from each other, are now harmoniously united by a large sandstone fireplace. Little is known about the original layout of the rooms on the piano nobile: one of the suggestions put forward by scholars is that the rooms were originally different to distinguish between the apartments for men, such as the Sala dei Nodi (the “Hall of Knots”) and those for women, like the Sala delle Dame (the “Ladies’ Hall”). The symbol of the sun, alternating with red stars, is painted on the walls, contrasting with the sgraffito work and with the grey decorations.

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