Centaurs Hall or Gallery leading to the Garden

The vast rectangular hall situated on the ground floor and accessible directly from the garden, was originally decorated by a series of 25 canvasses now kept at the Isola Madre, created by major Milanese painters of the 17th century that depict stories from the old Testament and Greek-Roman mythology. These were accompanied by decorations present in the lunettes that portrayed the cycle of “Virtue,” stored onsite until 1978 and today proposed in photocopies by the association “Experience the Palace and Garden Arese Borromeo”, so that one may better comprehend the rich decorations of the hall.

The vault has three frescos linked together to form a single central tripartite section. The critics attribute it to the painter, Ercole Procaccini the Younger (1605-1677), who shows his great inventiveness in both the painting of the faces (tragic, ironic and in some cases caricatures) and in rendering powerful nudes, which he tackled from the sophisticated citations of the art of Michelangelo and Rubens, to name a few. The subject portrayed is presented in the three ways love is manifested. The first episode, in fact, portrays the tender love of the lesser-known deities, Aurora and Tithonus. The young girl is depicted while she moves away from the bed of her old lover to sprinkle crocus flowers on the earth, accompanied by some flying cupids who help her with her task and invite her not to wake the man. The story that links the two spouses of different ages is that of a sincere desire for love but misinterpretation of the effects: the goddess, capable of opening the door of Day, falls in love with the young and handsome Tithonus, brother of the king of Troy, Priam. But in asking for the god’s immortality for him she forgets to ask for eternal youth and with the passing of time finds herself married to an old man with a shrill voice. The goddess herself transforms him into a cricket.
The central scene represents violent love that generates monstrosity and portrays the violence of Ixion on the cloud and Nevele, which according the myth, guides the birth of the Centaurs, here represented by Nessus (to the right of the composition), who represents lustful beings because of the many afflictions suffered.
Finally, the third episode depicts love in its purest and most fruitful sense, represented by Venus, sitting on a cloud surrounded by cherubs that bring her lilies and hurl magic arrows. Her cult, in fact, from the beginning proposes love as a natural force where sentiments are only a reflection. This brought Greek poets and philosophers to distinguish the two aspects of Aphrodite-Venus: The Urania Aphrodite is portrayed as born from the foam of the sea, generated by Uranus and symbol par excellence of ideals; the Pandémos Aphrodite (public), daughter of Zeus-Jupiter represents free and trivial love.
The richness of these myths, however, is to be read in relation to specific allegorical meanings related to the history of the family which owns the building, and the historical events that engulfed the contemporary society. The theme of love becomes a pretext to refer to the conjugal union between the Arese and Omodei families, through a non-violent marriage but a wise and fruitful union that could only bring fertility to the lands of Cesanesi and the Duchy of Milan.
Finally, there are references to the politics of the time and the love the vassals have for their Spanish government: like the mythological love described in the paintings, even this type of love can be destructive and violent, good but not so wise or as in the case of Bartolomeo Arese, honest, fruitful and bearer of peace and prosperity.