Ca’ Granda five centuries of history


A careful selection of different types of fixtures, from special fluorescent lamps to halogen lamps in order to illuminate and enhance the historical, cultural and artistic heritage kept at Ca' Granda




Royal Palace, Milan – Italy


Arch. Roberto Menghi

Ca’ Granda, meaning “The Big House”, is the name the Milanese gave to their old hospital, founded in 1456 by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan and his wife, Bianca Maria Visconti Sforza. The building, designed by Filarete around 1457, had been altered throughout the centuries, and then very seriously damaged by bombings in 1943. Restored and readapted after the war, it now hosts the University headquarters. Having been created for the recovery and care of the “poor, infirm, foundlings and other poor souls”, Ca’ Granda had always received generous financial contributions and land from the Milanese, as was common for all charitable institutions. Ca’ Granda collected the portraits of these benefactors and the resulting collection is particularly important, perhaps unique for its quality and number of works. This was the first time that these paintings were displayed in such large numbers and organically linked to the archives, another important part of the hospital's property. These in fact not only contain all the documents related to the everyday running of the hospital, but also include about four hundred private archives resulting from legacies. The setup united a wide range of items in an elegant and very legible way: about three-hundred portraits, chosen among the nine hundred in the collection; archive documents about the portraits and the hospital; documents related to the building of Ca’ Granda; sculptures and other works of art; and books on medicine and medical instruments belonging to the hospital. The accordion structure of the exhibition connected the pictures to the display cases for documents and suggested a simple and economical way of lighting them both using two light bulbs, respectively lodged into the lower and higher parts. Special fluorescent lamps were placed outside the display cases at an optimal distance in order not to cast more than 30-60 lux on the documents and heat them. Halogen lamps were selected to light up the paintings with the desired intensity (100-150 Lux), without creating any reflections. These cast concentrated light onto the pictures, following guidelines stipulating that the portraits should emerge dramatically from a background as neutral and dark as possible, as though in a gallery of ancestors.