Guglielmo Lochis (Bergamo, 1789-1859)

A life spent between public posts and collecting

Guglielmo Lochis’s life was split between private and public, between collecting and the many positions that made him a leading figure in the political and cultural world of Austrian Bergamo. The rise of Count Lochis, already a member of the Guardia Lombardo-Veneta in 1816, was marked by the many appointments he received: from his admission to the Royal Imperial Court (1838) until his nomination as Chamberlain (1854). Together with these privileges, he also held posts in the city, such as the highly prestigious position of Podestà of Bergamo (1842-48), and the no less important posts of honorary Director of the Royal Imperial Lyceum (1850), Provincial School Inspector (1852), and Chairman of the University of Science, Literature and the Arts (1852).

[Ritratto scultoreo di Giovan Maria Benzoni]


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Lochis and the Accademia Carrara

In 1834 he was made a member of the Accademia Carrara’s Commissaria, the management board set up by the founder to administrate the Pinacoteca and School of Painting. Lochis became its chairman just a few years later, in 1838. The count played a key role in the board’s decisions, such as in 1835, when many of the paintings in the Carrara Collection were sold at auction, quite possibly together with some of those the Museum had purchased in Venice from Salvatore Orsetti in 1804. On the other hand, he himself took part in the auction, buying many works, including The Portrait of Francesco Bruntino by Fra’ Galgario, for his own collection.

It is quite probable that he also had a close eye on the affairs of the School and, with remarkable foresight, he had his portrait made by the best pupil to come out of its classrooms – which is to say by Giovanni Carnovali, called Piccio, who portrayed him with an icy look in 1835.

[Ritratto di Giovanni Carnovali detto Piccio]


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The Collection

Lochis started forming his collection in the 1820s, with paintings of undeniable quality right from the outset. He managed to get hold of works by Lorenzo Lotto, Giovanni Bellini, Carlo Crivelli, Carpaccio, Titian, Dürer, and Canaletto, as well as Raphael’s Saint Sebastian. This painting was the jewel in the crown of a collection whose story appears in letters, including correspondence with the Milanese restorer Alessandro Brison, and in the three catalogues that were drafted by the count himself and published in 1834, 1846, and 1858.

As the collection grew, it became clear that a new home was needed, and Lochis asked the Ticinese architect Luigi Fontana to design a villa in the neoclassical style at Crocetta di Mozzo, just outside Bergamo. It was built between 1840 and 1841, and his collection was installed in it in accordance with the latest notions of museum design.


The Bequest to the City of Bergamo

When Guglielmo Lochis died in 1859, his will obliged the city to take on the responsibility of opening this second city museum to the public.

In the end, things turned out differently, because the City of Bergamo challenged the Count’s will in order not to have to take over management of the new museum, which was considered to be too far away, insecure and expensive. In the end, after lengthy negotiations with Carlo Lochis, the municipal administration decided in 1866 to assign 240 of the roughly 550 paintings in the Lochis Collection to the Accademia Carrara, with the meticulous selection being carried out by the expert eye of Giovanni Morelli.

The heirs, who were left with the villa, more than half the collection of paintings, and many objects – including ancient weapons, furniture, porcelain, ivories, bronzes, chinoiseries, glassware, enamels, lace and objects in coral – dispersed the art collection within the space of just a few years.