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Art & History

Hidden gems in Milan: the Fonderia Napoleonica Eugenia

News > Art & History | Hidden gems in Milan: the Fonderia Napoleonica Eugenia

Thaon di Revel is a street in the heart of Isola, the district of Milan that was first working-class and then, over the years, became more and more popular.
We have already suggested to you an itinerary meant to discover the Isola neighbourhood.
Today, you are about to discover a singular place of this district, a place not everyone knows that stands in Via Thaon di Revel. It’s the Napoleonic Foundry; an ancient bronze foundry that today hosts cultural events.

The history of the Fonderia Napoleonica Eugenia

Hidden gems in Milan: the Fonderia Napoleonica Eugenia

The history of the Foundry is closely linked to that of the Isola neighbourhood and, above all, to the Santa Maria Fontana Sanctuary, located at number 28 in via Thaon di Revel and famous for its miraculous healing properties.
The area surrounding the sanctuary was part of the Church itself.

When Napoleon arrived, he changed everything: he requisitioned the lands next to Santa Maria Fontana and had there built a bronze foundry. The Viceroy Eugenio de Beauharnais called two well-known smelters to take care of its construction. The brothers Manfredini were in Paris, but soon came back to Milan in order to accomplish their task. Soon, the foundry was built: it was called Eugenia to honour the Viceroy.

The brothers began to work in it, realizing both small furniture objects and greater works. Among the most memorable, there’s the sestiga, the six-horse carriage standing in the middle of the Arch of Peace in the Sempione Park.

In 1830, the Manfredini brothers were taken over by another family, the Barigozzi, which managed the foundry till its closure. The Barigozzi’s activity is widely documented in the Fonderia archive: Ermanno Secondo Barigozzi pinned all the details of construction, techniques and observations in diaries that, today, help us decipher the work of the family.
The Foundry specialized in bells making.

Original museums in Milan

This does not mean, however, that they lacked of more artistic works: for a long time the family collaborated with the sculptor Barzaghi and, together, they created Alessandro Manzoni’s statue (today standing in Piazza Fedele) and Luciano Manara’s (in the Public Gardens of Porta Venezia). Finally, in 1896, the foundry accomplished one of the most spectacular and well-known works of art of the city of Milan.

You have seen it for sure, but you maybe won’t remember it because it stands right in front of the number one symbol of the city, the Duomo. It’s the equestrian monument dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II we are talking about: the result of the fruitful collaboration between the Barigozzi family and the artist Ercole Rosa.
The family splendour ended in 1975, when the foundry closed its doors to the production. However, it opened them back again a few years later, to host the museum as well as the organization of events and exhibitions.

What to see at the Fonderia

Fonderia Napoleonica Milan

Get to Via Thaon di Revel 21. You will find a tall gate that protects an old farmstead. Head to the left: among a design studio and the other, you’ll meet the Fonderia directions. Upon entering, you will be immediately overwhelmed by the smell of plaster and wood. The first room you’ll see is the one that precedes the casting pit, the place where metals and materials where put together before the work began. On the second floor, you’ll see the major oven and, next to it, a small room, known as paradise room, where the plasters of saints and martyrs, meant for the bells, are treasured.

Visit the rooms, and notice that the recent refurbishments have left everything intact, from the terracotta floor to the wooden walls. Walk through the ancient pictures of Milan and of the Foundry itself, but remember: you must book in, or you’ll find none to welcome you. If you want, you can also check the events that take place from time to time in the Fonderia, like the Christmas green market.

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