Snite Museum and Medieval Institute Host Visit by Director of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan

Author: Cheryl Snay

March 13, 2017 – The Snite Museum and the Medieval Institute partner to bring Rev. Dr. Alberto Rocca, the director of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan, to the University of Notre Dame April 9–11 for a series of public and academic lectures and student visits.

With degrees in theology and early modern history from the University of Milan, Rocca has served as the director of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana since 2014. He co-organized the inspirational exhibition combining science and art Da Vinci Shaping the Future, which travelled to Singapore in 2014–2015, and another exhibition focusing on the painting St. Jerome by Caravaggio. He is also the co-author of a new guide to the Gallery.

Raphael's CartoonRaphael (Italian, 1483–1520), Cartoon of the School of Athens, ca. 1508, charcoal, graphite, black ink, and white heightening on paper, 312 x 108 inches. Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan.

On Sunday, April 9, at the Snite Museum, Rocca will deliver a public lecture, “Genesis, Events, and Incidents of Raphael’s Preparatory Cartoon of the School of Athens,” featuring the historic conservation treatment this drawing is currently undergoing. Remarkable for its sheer size—it measures 26 x 9 feet—and age, Raphael’s drawing for one of the western world’s most recognized masterpieces was made around 1508 to transfer the design of to the wall.

Very few of these drawings, called cartoons, survive because of the destructive nature of the transfer process. Raphael’s drawing, now housed in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, is one of them. The scientific study it is undergoing will yield unique insights into Raphael’s creative process. Rocca will give an overview of the history of the drawing, which was looted by Napoleon and taken to France. He will follow that with an analysis of its current condition and earlier restorations, and the painstaking work by conservators necessary to preserve it for the future.

Federico BorromeoPortrait of Federico Borromeo by Giulio Cesare Procaccini (1610); source: Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, April 11, at the Medieval Institute, Rocca will present “The Cultural Project of Federico Borromeo” followed by a reception. Cardinal Borromeo, the founder of the Biblioteca and Pinacoteca (art gallery) Ambrosiana, conceived of these complementary institutions as a model fine arts academy where science, literature, and Catholic doctrine combined to inform young artists in their mission to produce a new religious art for the Church following the Council of Trent.

It was Borromeo’s personal art collection that formed the nucleus of the art galleries holdings—172 paintings including masterpieces by Titian, Caravaggio, and Raphael. Borromeo wrote a treatise in 1625 entitled Museaeum in which he laid out the criteria he used to create his collection and why he designed the galleries as he did. Rev. Dr. Rocca’s presentation will provide insights into the significance of Borromeo’s cultural enterprise for education, art, and the Church.

Funding for the Snite Museum lecture is provided by The Alice Tully Endowment for the Fine and Performing Arts. Visit and for details.



Alberto Rocca, Director of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan

“Genesis, Events, and Incidents of Raphael’s Preparatory Cartoon of the School of Athens”
Sunday, April 9, 1 p.m.
Snite Museum of Art, Annenberg Auditorium
Free and open to the public

“The Cultural Project of Federico Borromeo”
Tuesday, April 11, 5 p.m.
Medieval Institute Reading Room (Hesburgh Library 715)

For further information, please contact Cheryl Snay, Snite Museum,, 574-631-4724 or Megan J. Hall, Medieval Institute,, 574-631-8304.


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