The Pinacoteca di Brera is housed in the Palazzo di Brera which towers on the site of a 14th century convent first owned by the Humiliati religious order and then by the Jesuits, who in the 17th century, thanks to the architect Francesco Maria Ricchini, turned the palace into a school. In 1773, when the Jesuits were disbanded, Palazzo Brera became a state gallery.
The empress Maria Theresa of Austria turned it into one of the most advanced cultural institutes of the city: the palace housed the Belle Arti Academy, the Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Lettere, the Braidense National Library, the astronomical Observatory and the Botanic Garden. The empress founded the Pinacoteca di Brera in 1776 for educational purpose, alongside of the Academy, made marvellous artworks available to students.
The Pinacoteca contains mostly paintings confiscated during the destruction of churches and convents: that’s the reason why most of the paintings depict sacred themes. Some of the most important artworks are Madonna con Bambino by Giovanni Bellini, Sposalizio della Vergine by Raffaello and Crocifissione by Bramantino. Since then many other artworks have been added to the collection, for instance some masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello, 23 paintings and drawings from Quadreria Arcivescovile of Milan and five paintings by 17th century Rubens, Joardens and Van Dyck, coming from the Louvre.