The second floor of an elegant Milanese building from the 1920s hosts an incredible collection of 20th-century art. It’s the Boschi Di Stefano museum, which has been open to the public for the past twenty years with a free entrance and is not far from Milan city centre.
History of the Boschi Di Stefano art collection
Antonio Boschi and Marieda Di Stefano lived in their apartment in Via Jan in Milan since the early 1930s. They were a curious couple, an engineer and a sculptor, both passionate about contemporary art.
Boschi worked for the Italian company Pirelli (machines, electric parts, tires, engines…) and, thanks to his fairly famous inventions, he made tons of money.
Marieda was an artist and loved ceramic. She created colourful, avant-garde pieces, especially considering that she was a woman of the early twentieth century. In fact, sometimes she signed herself “Andrea Da Robbio” (in Italian Andrea is considered a male name) to find acceptance and space for her art. The pseudonym is taken from Luca della Robbia, a 15th-century ceramist from Florence, who probably greatly fascinated our Marieda.
Having no children, the couple invested their capital in paintings, sculptures, violins and design furnishings.
Boschi and Di Stefano donated their collection to the Municipality of Milan, requesting to open a museum with it, that would bear both their names. They left more than 2000 pieces of art and only the smallest part are today on display in the museum. Others are exhibited in other Milanese museums or are waiting their turn in the cellar to shine in the apartment.
The collection and the museum
Boschi and Di Stefano were certainly art enthusiasts, but they also had a good eye for talent and the means to put together an incredible collection. With such a great number of pieces, the artworks on display at the museum are constantly rotating. You can find and download the current exhibition’s list of canvases from the museum’s website.
Among the pieces currently on display (June 2023), I want to mention two of the famous slashed canvases by Lucio Fontana and a couple of impressive paintings by Giorgio De Chirico. There’s also a very original canvas by Alberto Savinio, which is… not square!
Two rooms are entirely dedicated to Fontana and two others to Mario Sironi. The other rooms are more mixed and there is a bit of everything, but mostly Italian artists. Just to name a few, you can find Giorgio Morandi, Gino Severini, Filippo de Pisis, Piero Marussig, Arturo Tosi and, one of the perhaps only two female artists exhibited at the time of my visit, Paula Modersohn-Becker. One last artist I want to name is Remo Brindisi, who signs a portrait of Mr and Mrs Boschi hanging right at the entrance of the exhibition.
Antonio Boschi was passionate about music, as well as art. And in the museum sits a grand piano, a beautiful record player/cabinet and a collection of violins.
Scattered around the apartment, many works by Marieda Di Stefano are on display. Among these, there are ceramic fish, curiously worked metallic plates and some flat sculptures that look like paintings.
The sculpture and ceramic school
On the ground floor of the museum building, there is another apartment belonging to the couple that can also be visited free of charge. These spaces used to be used as Marieda’s ceramic workshop and the school that she opened in the 1950s. It was a meeting point to share knowledge and exchange experiences with other artists, but also a place to learn for the following 50 years.
The apartment still contains some of the workshop’s furniture, tools and some of Marieda’s art. But it also hosts temporary exhibitions with works from artists from the Boschi Di Stefano collection. In the basement, there’s the old oven to cook the ceramics, but it’s sadly not open to the public.
I leave you the school of ceramic link, where you can find quite a few pictures and interesting anecdotes.
Visit the museum Boschi Di Stefano: free entrance and volunteers
The Boschi Di Stefano museum is located on the second floor of the building, in a beautiful apartment. The walls are entirely covered with works of art. Each room hosts more or less a decade of collection, so you can visit the museum in chronological order.
The entrance is free, which is a rare and quite unique perk for any Italian museum, not just in Milan. However, you can leave an offer to keep up the Boschi Di Stefano foundation that runs the business.
Another very nice thing about both apartments, museum and workshop, is that there are guides ready to give you information and answer any of your questions. At least some of them if not all, are volunteers from the Italian Touring Club. They are in fact quite well prepared for the exhibition, the artists on display, but also other Milanese museums and art in general.
I approached an old lady who must have been 80 years old with a couple of questions and, honestly, some doubts that they could find answers in this grandma. But surprise! The lady showed off a respectable artistic and historical preparation, which certainly far exceeded mine!
The museum organizes free daily guided tours, that can be booked online. For details, times and closing days, check out the website of the museum.