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  • Varallo

    The Pinacoteca


The origins of the Institution. In 1778 Varallo becomes one of the most influential cultural centres in Piedmont thanks to the foundation of the Drawing School: many teachers are actually artists operating in the Sacro Monte, painters, architects and sculptors who are also in charge of restoring older artworks. In 1831 the Società per lIncoraggiamento allo Studio del Disegno (Society for Promoting the Study of Drawing) is founded with the aim of supporting the activities of the School: the Society also buys the buildings nearby the School, constituting the oldest wing of the actual Museums Palace. Soon enough, the Societytakes interest in the whole artistic heritage on the territory and starts an intense activity of documentation, conservation and promotion: with the same purpose it assumes the direction of the Barolo Woodcarving School, which carried on a traditional craft of the valley. The main model remains Gaudenzio Ferrari, in particular for his masterpieces in Santa Maria delle Grazie and in the chapels of the Sacro Monte. The Society, which since 1867 has also been in charge of the Natural History Museum, receives frequent donations of artworks, thus facing the problem of an adequate conservation of its patrimony: a solution is found with the creation of the Società per la Conservazione delle Opere dArte e dei Monumenti in Valsesia (Society for the Conservation of Artworks and Monuments in Valsesia) in 1875. The target of the newborn Society is the institution of an Art Gallery, which takes place ten years later in 1885 after the Valsesia Art Exhibition celebrating the (presumed) fourth centenary of the birth of Gaudenzio Ferrari.

The birth of the Art Gallery. The artworks in the Exhibition constitute the first group of pieces of the Art Gallery, opened one year later in three halls of the Palace: the painter Giulio Arienta is in charge of compiling the catalogue, posthumously published in 1902. The growing collections cause many changes in the following years: in 1915 the Society for the Conservationis declared charitable organisation, thus being able to inherit the bequest of the painter Bartolomeo Avondo, an extraordinary group of drawings from various artists such as Morazzone, Tanzio da Varallo, Pier Francesco Gianoli.

Expansion of the museum. In the 1940s a new regulation for the Art Gallery is established, calling for the election of a curator: the first curator is the painter Emilio Contini, who promoted the realisation of a new exposition, opened in 1952 in 24 halls.

Towards a modern museum. At the end of the 1950s, after the election of Giorgio Rolandi as President, the Society obtained property of the building: this brought a renovation of the museum spaces ended in 1960. Rolandi also supported the work of many art historians from the universities and museums of Milan and Turin who had already showed their interest in the artistic heritage of Varallo, in particular regarding Gaudenzio Ferrari and Tanzio da Varallo. The new exposition for the museum and the subsequent monographic exhibition about Tanzio were born thanks to the collaboration of Anna Maria Brizio, Noemi Gabrielli, Marco Rosci, Vittorio Viale and Giovanni Testori: this yeasty period reached its prime with the Third Piedmont Congress on Art and Antiquities, organised by the della Società piemontese di Archeologia e Belle Arti (Piedmont Society for Archeology and Fine Arts) and hosted by the Art Gallery in 1960.

The Art Gallery today. In 1998 the Society for Promoting the Study of Drawing and the Society for the Conservation of Artworks and Monuments in Valsesia unite, giving birth to a charitable non-profit organisation (ONLUS) aimed at the promotion and conservation of the artistic patrimony of the Art Gallery with a progressive restauration of the Palace and its collections, in line with the latest standards in security and art preservation.