Art in person: studying at Palazzo Arese Borromeo

Student Life

Art in person: studying at Palazzo Arese Borromeo

17 Jan, 2022

The powerful jurist, president of the judiciary and president of the Milan Senate, Bartolomeo III Arese (1610-1674) is responsible for the main building and decorative events of Palazzo Arese Borromeo in Cesano Maderno.

These are part of an articulated and strategic commissioning activity that Bartolomeo III exercised, both privately and as a holder of public offices, especially in the city of Milan, having churches and palaces built and decorated.

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Gallery of the statues

The Cesano Maderno palace thus falls within a studied Lombard "taking of the territory" which aims at leaving a mark in the imagination of its inhabitants precisely through an iconographic apparatus that is widespread and shared in the various buildings belonging to the jurist. This iconographic apparatus was focused on the formation of the Arese itself, jurisprudence and, even more so, in an elevated and sublimated sense, Justice.

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Hall of Fasti Romani

The symbolic and allegorical images, Christian and pagan, that Bartolomeo has depicted in his buildings, recruiting the best local workers of the time, are responsible for conveying the message of moral warning that justice imposes, empowering the rulers to act for the common good.


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It is then clear how, once again, images (and artistic ones in particular) over the course of their millenary history play a primary role in human communication by relying on the two main aspects that characterize it: reason and emotion, the rational/erudite message and the way in which this is conveyed by intercepting the emotional sensitivity of the observer.

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Gallery of the statues

Palazzo Arese Borromeo is almost entirely frescoed with images consciously created to "act" silently on their observers, that is, to exercise their combined emotional and pedagogical power over them (see in particular the Sala Aurora, the Hall of Fasti Romani, the Gallery of the statues and the Nymphaeum, just to mention the most surprising environments): it thus creates an exceptional laboratory to train the gaze to become more and more aware of the "power of images".

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Sala Aurora

Students of Art and Philosophy who study in such an environment will be able to understand how thought can only take on diversified forms, which are not necessarily incarnated only in the logos, in the word, in the argument, but also in the image, in a form that is different, almost inappropriable by the intellect, yet it is the result of this and a source of equally sophisticated messages because they are filtered by aesthetic sensitivity. Such sensitivity needs to be educated not only for the purposes of a properly historical-artistic formation but also, and above all, as a form of learning to immerse oneself with critical awareness in what is now called the "iconosphere".

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Room 8

The question is not only that of learning to look, read and interpret contemporaneity but also that of seeing with new (and inevitably contemporary) eyes the treasures that the past has left us as an inheritance in the form of material and intangible assets, recognizing the absolute interpenetration and complementarity of the two aspects: the material one (history, artistic artefacts, documentation, etc.) and the immaterial one (thought, ideas, uses, customs, philosophy, etc.).

materiale (storia, manufatti artistici, documentazione, ecc.) e quello immateriale (pensiero, idee, usi, costumi, filosofia, ecc.).

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Galleria inferiore

Palazzo Arese Borromeo, renewed seat of the Faculty of Philosophy of our University and in particular of the Master's Degree Course in Theory and History of Arts and Image, would thus be understood as one-of-a-kind "simulator", one of a kind, of such an "iconosphere". Not an aseptic virtual simulator but a real microcosm, an architecturally real container (to be taken care of and respected) capable of guaranteeing an immersion in the images with awareness, obtained with the daily attendance of these iconographically dense environments and through the orientation to a critical and reasoned gaze offered by the new course in Theory and History of Arts and the Image.

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South-West representative staircase



  • M. Di Monte, Iconosphere, in International Lexicon of Aesthetics, Spring 2018 Edition,
  • D. Freedberg, Il potere delle immagini. Il mondo delle figure: reazioni e emozioni del pubblico, Einaudi, Torino 2009.
  • A. Spiriti, Palazzo Arese Borromeo a Cesano Maderno, ISAL, Cesano Maderno 2000.

Written by

Alessandro Rossi
Alessandro Rossi

Alessandro Rossi is Researcher of History of Modern Art at the UniSR Faculty of Philosophy where he teaches History of Renaissance and Modernity Art. He is a member of the European Research Center for History and Theory of Image. He is the author of numerous articles on Renaissance and Baroque art and of two monographs, one on 16th-century Venetian painting and the other dedicated to Leonardo's painters. He has also published two collections of poems. It defines the history of art developed over the years "anthropologically oriented".

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