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The wooden Modellone at the Museum

An ancient CAD System

IMG 8923 OK
22 March Mar 2019 1109 22 March 2019

A tool used for verifying and testing design projects, now preserved in the museum

In order to illustrate and assist in the construction of an architectural monument of such impressive dimensions as the Duomo di Milano, the simplest and most representative method is to create a reduced scale model, to reproduce not only its three dimensional expression but also its concrete physical features.In fact, from the earliest years of the construction, the drawings of the project were accompanied by wooden models, making it possible to verify the correspondence between form and function or to observe any potential defects or uncertainties regarding proportions and volumes.

The Duomo, the design of which most likely included all of the original conceptual details right from the beginning, was represented by models of all kinds and all materials:wood, lead, and plaster, of which only printed information now exists. For example, on 9th February 1387 there is mention of a lead tiburio, or lantern, created by “Anechino da Alemania”. Later, in 1389, there is written evidence of models by Gabriele Stornaloco and Giovannino de Grassi. More than a century later, in 1490, construction of the Tiburio was decided upon following exhibition of the models in the Castello di Porta Giovia. Even Leonardo and Bramante presented their designs, sometimes criticising the very practice of creating models.

But the oldest model, now preserved in the Museum and also known as the "Modellone", dates from the following century. The resolution for the construction of this wooden model, on which various architects collaborated (such as Amedeo, Gerolamo della Porta, Cristoforo Solari, Giovanni da Molteno, il Bramantino, Bernardo de Coiri, Antonio da Lonate, and Bernardino da Treviglio) is dated 19 May 1519.

Constructed in lime wood, walnut, and pine, with additional elements in spruce, the Modellone is in 1:20 scale (approximately 1/12 of a braccio milanese - a unit of measure equal to 60 cm). At the time the structural portion, with apse, transept, and tiburio, should have been almost completed and have exhibited 5/6 aisles of the transept facing the façade. The engravers back then were: Giovan Pietro da Sesto, Vincenzo da Seregno (known as il Seregni), and Martino da Treviglio. Some restorations are documented, dating from 1607 and 1633. Between 1760 and 1765 the Great Spire was positioned, the work of Giuseppe Antignati who created the model of the Madonnina soon after.

Initially preserved in the old Duomo work-site, it was subsequently dismantled, adapted with two aisles, many spires, embrasures, and flying buttresses, restored, and reassembled by Giuseppe Bellora in its current location. Two partial façade models by Francesco Castelli and Luca Beltrami are also preserved in the museum.

Still today the Modellone is periodically subjected to maintenance and restoration works, such as that carried out from Monday, 19 June to Monday, 26 June, 2017 in the room that houses "inventions, projects, and matter".

This restoration project is part of the good practices which every museum applies to its patrimony, knowing that periodic, ordinary maintenance ensures that the artwork remains well-preserved, avoiding neglect and subsequent extraordinary or invasive restorations.

The museum's task is, in fact, to continuously monitor the works so as to plan targeted and scheduled maintenance and restoration in order to enhance and protect its patrimony.

Luca Quartana, together with his partner Antonella Ortelli, oversaw the project and, previously, the restoration of the wood model: an important operation that required enormous precision which took place in 2013 (?) and focused on refurbishing the fastening system through the creation of new resin screws.

Today more than ever the Veneranda Fabbrica is joining the trend of museum best practices, keeping up with the most up-to-date technology and applying the preservation and restoration techniques of the third millennium.