Unlike many Italian municipal museums that were created after the suppression of ecclesiastical institutions and the dispersal of aristocratic picture galleries, the Accademia Carrara has mainly been formed by the generosity of private individuals, art lovers and collectors who have left their collections, and small groups of art objects, as well as single works to the Museum.
Towering above the long list of donors, which testifies to an uninterrupted tradition of affection and artistic patronage in the city, are Giacomo Carrara (1796), Guglielmo Lochis (1866), Giovanni Morelli (1891) and, most recently, Federico Zeri (1998) and, lastly, Mario Scaglia.
Their bequests have formed the backbone of the Museum, helping to establish the overall nature of the Accademia Carrara collection. Even so, together with the larger donations, there has been an uninterrupted series of over 200 donations, which have greatly enriched and diversified the collection as a whole. Notable among these are those from Carlo Marenzi (1851), the owner of the Madonna and Child by Andrea Mantegna, from Francesco Baglioni (1900), who left the Carrara a rare set of fifteenth-century tarot cards, and from Cesare Pisoni (1923-24), who donated a small but important collection of paintings from the second half of the nineteenth century.
Bergamo, 1714 – 1796
Two closely related projects accompanied Giacomo throughout his life: the establishment of a painting school and a gallery for his art collections, open to the public of connoisseurs.
In order to realise this intention, he purchased an old building in Via della Noca in Bergamo in 1766 and radically transformed it. This is the original core of the neoclassical building designed by Simone Elia, which today houses the Accademia Carrara.
Bergamo, 1789 – 1859
Appointed in 1835 as a member of the Commissaría dell’Accademia Carrara, a management body set up by the founder to administer the Picture Gallery and the School of Painting, Lochis became its president a few years later, in 1838. The Count played a fundamental role in the choices made by the board, such as in 1835 when many paintings from the Carrara collection were auctioned off and probably also part of those purchased by the museum in 1804 from Salvatore Orsetti in Venice.
Verona, 1816 – Milano, 1891
Giovanni Morelli built up his collection following his own taste and interests as a scholar, but without a specific programme.
The collection, completed around 1874, furnished the rooms of his home at 14 Via Pontaccio in Milan, where it remained until Morelli’s death in 1891. The following year, it was bequeathed to the Accademia Carrara, which was enriched by the collection of one of the greatest art historians of the 19th century.
Roma, 1921 – Mentana, 1998
Zeri’s relationship with the Accademia Carrara dates back to the early 1950s, when the first references to works in the Bergamo museum appeared in the scholar’s articles.
The last episode in Zeri’s long friendship with the museum was the decision, already matured at the end of the 1980s, but officially expressed in his will, to donate his own collection of sculptures to the Accademia Carrara, which filled a gap in the Bergamasque institution’s patrimony.
Mario Scaglia, an engineer, comes from a family of industrialists who were initially dedicated to the production of buttons and fuses, later converting to precision mechanical engineering. It is precisely the technical dimension that makes him passionate about medals and plaques, small art objects, the result of great expertise in the field of metallurgy, which form the heart of his art collection.
In addition to the five largest donations (from the collections of Giacomo Carrara, Guglielmo Lochis, Giovanni Morelli, Federico Zeri and Mario Scaglia), over the course of more than two centuries more than 240 organisations and individuals have entrusted the Carrara Academy with the safekeeping of their works. Below, in chronological order, is a list of the numerous donors, rare 19th-century acquisitions and deposits.