A visit to the building in Via Jan 15, designed in the late 1920s by the architect Piero Portaluppi, offers not just the chance to wander through 50 years of Italian twentieth-century art history, but also to go on a journey into the lives of the collectors who lived in these rooms,inhabiting and furnishing them with such love and care. At the beginning of the 1930s, the married couple Marieda di Stefano and Antonio Boschi opened the doors of their residence to some of the most influential artists ever, including Mario Sironi, Alberto Savinio, Lucio Fontana, Carlo Carrà and Arturo Martini, with whom they were to forge genuine friendships over the years.
Being very close to the House-Museum, we often accompany collectors and artists who are invariably attracted, room after room, by its intimate and extraordinary nature. Each visit is an opportunity for profound reflection on what collecting can mean, what the ultimate destination of collections is and how important it is to build solid relationships with artists.
The Boschi di Stefano House-Museum displays only part of the couple’s vast collection. Just a few years after their marriage, the artworks began to multiply to the point of invading every nook and cranny of the apartment. The designer Alessandro Mendini, Marieda’s nephew, who spent his childhood in those rooms, recalled “the obsession his aunt and uncle had for shifting pictures around to gain a few extra centimetres”. One might imagine that their passion for art would dominate all other considerations, but for Marieda and Antonio, furnishings were also very important. Today, we might speak of “design d’auteur”, especially to describe the room dedicated to Mario Sironi, where one can admire over thirty paintings and furniture designed by the artist. This unique room is in fact the extraordinary result of the great friendship cultivated over the between Marieda and the painter, until the latter’s death in 1961. Various admirable attempts at comforting Sironi after the war were made, when, overwhelmed by the premature death of his daughter Rossana, he wrote: “I’ve been really lucky in my despair to meet such dear and kind people as you. Again please forgive my dismal weariness”.
Such poignant testimonies reveal how the role of the collectors is also philanthropic: their relationship with the artists, as much one of deep friendship as of generous support, can turn a private collection into an extraordinary cultural legacy to be enjoyed by all.
Another touching example of the generosity of the founders of the House-Museum is the ceramics school that Marieda was so keen to establish, opened in the late 1950s on the mezzanine floor of the building. It is now a visitable exhibition space that displays not only artworks but also fascinating tools from that time.
Today the Boschi di Stefano House-Museum is a little jewel in the heart of Milan, not far from the hustle and bustle of Corso Buenos Aires, building on the richness of its history and making it accessible to all. It is completely free of charge. Gianfranco Maraniello has been its new director since 2022, responsible for rearranging the exhibition plan of the Milan Modern and Contemporary Museum Group, of which Casa Boschi di Stefano is part. The involvement of the Department of Culture since 1998, the year the Foundation was set up, has had, and continues to have, the vital task of conserving a place so steeped in beauty – a place that promotes art appreciation and bears witness to a passionate and precious history.