The Accademia Carrara has a rich heritage, with various types of works.
The largest collection is that of paintings, covering a considerable period of time, from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century. The sculptures are limited in number but of great interest, particularly those of the Baroque period.
Together with the paintings and sculptures, which are the stars of the visit, there is also a splendid collection of drawings and prints, as well as a fine collection of decorative arts, with small bronzes, medals, fans, porcelain, pewter, and gold and silverware.
The Museum’s ancient collections also include the historic library and archive.
The most important collection is that of the paintings, in terms of both number and quality. The Museum owns 1,793 works, and the number continues to grow thanks to constant donations from private individuals.
Few other picture galleries in Italy can pride themselves on such a comprehensive overview of the Venetian and Lombard schools, as well as a select collection of Tuscan Renaissance works.
The Pinacoteca contains masterpieces by artists ranging from Pisanello to Mantegna, to Foppa and Bellini, as well as Raphael, Titian, Lotto, Moroni, Baschenis, Rubens, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Guardi, Hayez and Previati. There is also a particularly significant collection of paintings by the teachers and pupils of the School of the Accademia Carrara, with works by Diotti, Piccio, Coghetti, Trécourt, and Scuri, among others.
There are a total of 134 sculptures. The oldest objects are the three Renaissance sculptures of the Tuscan school, which came to the Museum with the Giovanni Morelli Bequest in 1891.
A sizeable group was donated by Federico Zeri in 1998, with 46 objects, including works by Pietro Bernini, Domenico Guidi, Filippo Parodi, and Giovan Francesco Arrighi. Of no less importance is the collection of 25 sculptures from the Fantoni studio, which was active in Lombardy and Veneto for over two centuries.
The sculpture collection also includes a series of nineteenth- and twentieth-century busts, mostly of personalities linked to local art and history.
The drawings constitute a considerable, even though relatively unknown, part of the Accademia Carrara collection. There are 2,824 Old Master drawings, most of them from Count Giacomo Carrara, who collected them both for his own pleasure and for the School of painting he founded. Other groups of drawings have been added to this outstanding collection, with the architectural drawings of Jacopo Quarenghi and his school, and drawings by Piccio and from nineteenth-century Bergamo.
Then there is a separate series of 777 graphic works by the pupils of the Accademia di Belle Arti, dating from the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, which have not yet been properly studied although they have been reorganised very recently.
There are prints by very famous artists, such as Mantegna, Dürer, Piranesi and Canaletto. The Accademia Carrara has no fewer than 7,500, many of them bound in volumes, because they were mainly used for teaching purposes.
Coins and Medals
The Accademia Carrara collection also includes 221 Greek, Roman, medieval and Italian coins up to the end of the nineteenth century, and 976 medals from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, with a predominance of sixteenth-century specimens.
The medals by Pisanello, the series of portraits of sixteenth-century personalities, and the one of popes and the Vimercati Sozzi Collection are of particular interest.
The documents in the historical archives record the over two-hundred-year history of the Accademia Carrara.
The large numbers of binders (almost 300) were recently reordered and inventoried according to the existing subdivision, which was probably established in the early twentieth century. They are divided into two collections:
- The Giacomo Carrara Archive: personal and family documents, as well as letters, to about 1796;
- The Commissaria Archive: documents of the Accademia di Belle Arti and of the Pinacoteca, from about 1800 to 1960.
Both have a detailed inventory and can be consulted, upon request, during office hours.
The Historical Library
The historical library contains a total of 1,300 volumes, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Its largest holding is that of the books that belonged to Giacomo Carrara, to which the collection of Salvatore Orsetti was added, together with the volumes with the work of the Accademia di Belli Arti. Although there is no lack of literary works, with Plutarch, Pliny, Giovanni Boccaccio, Pietro Bembo, Torquato Tasso, and others, there is a predominance of books on the history of art, with works by Leon Battista Alberti, Giorgio Vasari, Giovan Paolo Lomazzo, Sebastiano Serlio, Marco Boschini, and others.
One unusual collection is that of nineteenth-century repertories of drawings of ornamentation, terracottas, carpentry, mechanical elements and theatre sets.
Some of the volumes (about 200) have been on temporary loan to the Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai in Bergamo for about thirty years.
With an inventory that is detailed but not available as an Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC SBN), the original holding of the library can be consulted, upon request, during office opening hours.
The Accademia Carrara presents itself to the world as a major collection of paintings, but the museum also has a wide range of very different objects, which reflect the tastes of erudite collecting in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, with a great interest in the arts that we now refer to as “minor”.
Together with the furniture and furnishings, there are also porcelain items, bronzes, jewellery and silverware, glassware, and table clocks, but also small collections of rather rare objects, one of which is of 46 seals, ancient and modern, including two of Giacomo Carrara’s own. There are 1,632 eighteenth-century sulphur casts from ancient seals, 60 fans from the Sottocasa family, and 133 pewter items from the Albertoni Bequest (2001).
Many of these collections have been catalogued and studied in recent decades thanks to dedicated research work and undergraduate theses.