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Art & History

Palazzo della Ragione, photo exhibition centre of Milan

News > Art & History | Palazzo della Ragione, photo exhibition centre of Milan

In 1200, Milan counted only 10,000 buildings.
One of the main structures, situated in the middle of Piazza Mercanti, was the Palazzo della Ragione, named in such a way (literally, the Reason Palace) because it was meant to become the siege for legal and administrative activities, where people therefore were supposed to think. Its central hall is the biggest one still existing which dates back to the Middle Age: once the seat of municipal meetings, it has now become the exhibition space dedicated to the great names of photography.

From Cartier-Bresson to Salgado, the Palazzo della Ragione is one of the centres of Milan’s cultural life and at the same time a witness of the medieval city.

The administrative center of Milan

Palazzo Ragione of Milan

Credits photo:

In Milan, the broletto was the city centre, usually fenced and dedicated to jurisdictional meetings. The first broletto of Milan was the Royal Palace, replaced between 1228 and 1251 by the Broletto Nuovo, and thus moved to Piazza Mercanti.
Mercanti square was the centre of the six historic districts of the city with whom it communicated through its six arches. Here justice was administered, announcements for the common people were made from the balcony and seized goods were put up for auction over the “failure stone”.

The Palazzo della Ragione construction began in 1228: its symbol was a cock put aside to a horse, standing for vigilance and, at the same time, for the speed of justice.

The Palazzo della Ragione holds two important works of art, besides those regularly realized by noteworthy photographers and held inside its walls: a high relief and low relief.
The first is located on the façade overlooking the square and it portrays Oldrado da Tressenso who, in 1223, ordered for the widening of the Palace through the construction of a second floor, the one that still today treasures the hall.
The bas-relief is of greater historic importance: found during Oldrado’s restyling, it is the oldest town icon representing the symbol of Milan, a sow, and dating back to Celtic times.

In 1500, Piazza Mercanti administrative role was joined by the Broletto Nuovissimo, another Palace meant to fulfil such a relevant role in the city ruling. The new broletto was hosted in the Palace that today is known to be the Piccolo Theatre of Milan: Palazzo della Ragione became the place where papers filed by the notaries were put and conserved. It stayed such until 1939, when the hall of Milan bought the building and began refurbishing works allowing the old Palace to gain a new look and a new role.

The Palazzo della Ragione’s photograps

Palazzo della Ragione, photo exhibition centre of Milan

The Medieval hall is still open and can be visited during one of photographic exhibitions. Lit by six large windows and surrounded by an arc, it seems the perfect place to house the creations of nationally and internationally renowned artists.

In 2014, Sebastiao Salgado presented Genesis, a series of photographs in black and white, investigating the relationship between man and the planet, in the celebration of the beautiful force of nature.
The symbol of 2016 was the exhibition called Italy Inside Out and completely dedicated to the Bel Paese storytelling through 500 photos by the most important world photographers.

Inside Out Italy Palazzo della Ragione

Environmental mutations, social realism, urban transformation, enthusiasm and despair: the exhibition drew a faithful depiction of the Italy and Italians.
As far as today, and until June 5 2016, Palazzo della Ragione has shifted its attention to the world of celebrities, hosting the largest retrospective ever organized in Milan about Herb Ritts. The US photographer has composed some of the most incisive creations of the Hollywood world and helped into shaping the coated image luring behind icons like Madonna, Michael Jackson and Richard Gere. Its images are of a dreamy past of fashion and seduction.

The next exhibitions will be monographic about James Nachtwey and William Klein: visit the official website to keep updated.

Video of the exhibition opening Herb Ritts “In equilibrio”, organized by Alessandra Mauro:

Herb Ritts “In equilibrio”, l’inaugurazione. Palazzo della Ragione Fotografia (Milano) 19 febbraio 2016 from Laura Bianconi on Vimeo.

Credits preview photo:
Official website:

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