Art Nouveau in Milan

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Façade of the former Dumont Cinema, 1905, via Frisi

I had the morning spare and couldn’t face the crowds around the Duomo and the centre, so I headed for the area south-east of the station in search of interesting buildings. It was a bitterly cold day with snow on its mind, so my walk was brisk. It’s an area of apartment blocks from the early 20th century onwards and still looks prosperous. It reminded me of the walk around a similar type of area in Valencia: the expansion of middle-class dwellings in the latest style.

In Italy, Art Nouveau is also known as le stile Liberty (after the designs of the London store). It has its own national flavour (what’s with the rustication?) and refuses to relinquish old motifs like putti and deep eaves, but it’s happy to add sunflowers, peacocks and Secession-style heads. And chestnut leaves (which I also recall from Stockholm). It’s pine cones in Nancy. I like that kind of local particularity.

Here are some photos: I took them on the hoof and post them here in the same spirit. There’s a bit of everything, including sgraffito (shades of Barcelona, Brussels and Vienna).

By  via Malpighi I was flagging so stopped for a reviving Kaffee und Kuchen in a café (a former public weighing house, I think) opposite the OTT Casa Guazzoni.

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Casa Guazzoni, 1904-06, designed by Giovanni Battista Bossi. There were originally frescoes at the top.

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I noticed that there were people standing outside the open door of the apartment block, so I quickly paid and nipped across in the hope of being allowed to peek inside. It was better than expected: one of the residents is standing in next week’s elections and had invited people on his mailing list to view the communal interior. (I didn’t enquire about his politics, but I had a guess.) I saw the courtyard gates, the frescoes and the astonishingly (to me) unsupported hexagonal staircase.

Further along this short street is an earlier building by the same architect – this time clad in majolica tiles:

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I headed back along corso Venezia to see the Palazzo Castiglioni:

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Palazzo Castiglioni, 1901-04, by Giuseppe Sommaruga

It’s a rather grotesque building, with its lower windows resembling barnacle-encrusted portholes that have been shipwrecked for centuries and its eroding cherubs (concrete? stucco? stone?) above the upper windows. I was able to get past the front door here too to admire the ironwork.

And now I am in Venice. It was a bit of a relief to escape Milan’s relentless urbanscape, but the crowds here are even greater.

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About aides mémoires

This is a chronological list of things I have seen, places I have visited, and thoughts that have wandered through the space between my ears. A reading group of one; an art appreciation society limited by my preferences and prejudices; opera criticism by one who knows nothing about the subject.
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