Villa Visconti Borromeo Litta (General Presentation)

The villa of Lainate is an admirable affirmation of Lombardy’s artistic and architectural culture of the late 16th century. It is an important testimony to the rituals of living in a villa in an urban setting of that period, often modified to document the prestige achieved by the important aristocratic families. So it is no surprise that the Villa Visconti Borromeo Litta was rebuilt according to the system of country residences dating back to previous centuries, with the aim of surprising and fascinating nobles who frequented this small Lombard Court.

The radical transformations were carried out at the behest of Pirro Visconti Borromeo, considered a refined patron and collector of ancient art, who entrusted the design of the large villa to the architect, Martino Bassi, one of the most active professionals in Milan in the second half of the 16th century. For the decorations, the noble Borromeo family called, among others, sculptor, Francesco Brambilla, and painter, Camillo Procaccini. Pirro Visconti Borromeo invited the latter to Lainate in 1587, where he worked with his brothers, Giulio Cesare and Carlo Antonio, with whom a happy and lasting collaboration was established in the heart of the counter-reform culture of Milan-Lombardy.
Lomazzo was the personal cultural adviser of Pirro and creator of the general iconographic system and the fountain. According to the art historian, Alessandro Morandotti, he was a distinguished painter and writer of treaties from Milan who was able to create his own personal style by combining the lessons of Michelangelo and the noble legacies left by Leonardo da Vinci, with the perspective research of Bramantino and Zenale and the freshness of Gaudenzian paintings.
The decorative elements of the villa of Lainate, which have survived to this day, however, are attributed to different eras. Stylistically the frescoes decorating the halls follow a certain trend that started from the second half of the 16th to the 18th centuries. This variety is to be extended also to the technique applied in the artworks, which is not exclusively attributed to the different phases of the construction of the stately mansion or the personal contributions of individual artists who worked in the palatial home, but is also linked to the trends of the time and the ever changing political-administrative rationale that led the owners to assert with greater or lesser force, the power achieved by their family.
The same transformation of a simple country house into a majestic villa of delights, therefore, is linked to both the economic successes achieved by Pirro, and the careful matrimonial policy of his family. It was this policy that allowed, and at the same time forced him, to call in great artists to Lainate, including Camillo Procaccini who was able to introduce the innovative techniques of Emilian paintings in the villa by creating sequences of frescoes that recall the solutions adopted by Correggio in the Parma Cathedral and in the church of San Giovanni Evangelista/Saint John the Apostle in Bologna. Procaccini, in fact, introduced figurative innovations to the villa of Lainate that in the years immediately following his arrival in Milan, were widely studied and imitated by the major exponents of Lombard culture of the early 17th century, as evidenced by the works of many artists, including Giuseppe Nuvolone, Lanzani Andrea and Stefano Maria Legnani also known as Legnanino.
Procaccini also worked on the Nymphaeum that contained a valuable and absolutely unique decoration of the late-16th century thanks to the new painting technique based on the use of river pebbles, of which Borsieri spoke about in his Supplimento della Nobilità di Milano, published in 1619. In these rooms the viewer is literally captured by the dense decorations of arabesques, tree species, creatures deduced from G.P. Lomazzo, exotic animals and mythological creatures, such as fauns, harpies, dragons, mermaids and Silenuses.
After several changes of ownership, the villa became a town hall and a place for numerous cultural events of great success.