This building, originally a 14th-century monastery belonging to the Order of the Umiliati, was much later converted into a Gallery, by Maria Theresa of Austria. Today, it presents all the splendour and talent of Italian art. The Brera Gallery received official recognition of its status as part of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts from its secretary Giuseppe Bossi. It was built by the great architect Giuseppe Piermarini.
The Neoclassical structure includes the premises of the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense (Braidense national library), the Astronomical Observatory, the Botanic Garden, the Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Lettere (Lombard Institute of Science and Literature), and the Academy of Fine Arts. The Gallery was initially created to house a collection of works (mainly paintings arriving in Milan after the suppression of churches and monasteries) provided to assist Academy students in their art historical studies. It gradually grew through donations and bequests, and today it has become a vast collection of artworks.The building has long been one of Italy's principal cultural institutions.
At the centre of the first court, there is an imposing statue of Napoleon in the guise of Mars the peacemaker: this provides an indication of the artistic riches in the internal halls of the Gallery, where there are fine works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini, Fattori and Canaletto. Over four hundred works from the 14th century to the latest currents in contemporary art, demonstrating the success of Italian art worldwide.