In the first room you can see Musical Instruments, an oil painting on canvas by Evaristo Baschenis. It is a still life showing five instruments: a lute, a guitar, a violin and bow, a mandola and a spinet. It is one of the most precious pictures in our collection. In the showcase below, there are eight, highly unusual instruments: a guitar-mandolin, a harp-lute, a guitar-lyre, a recorder-basset horn, and a hurdy-gurdy. Without a shadow of a doubt, the most extraordinary of them has to be the dual purpose recorder-basset horn: both a musical instrument and a walking stick! Next to the entrance stands a 17th-century spinet with an inscription in Latin above the keyboard that reads: “Inexpert hand, touch me not”. The maker, Honofrio Guaracino, was active in Naples in the second half of the 1600s. The case was painted in 1669 by the great Salerno artist, Angelo Solimena, and shows a biblical scene: “Judith holding up the head of Holophernes”.
Above the bust of Verdi, you can see a painting by the Austrian artist, Martin Knoller, showing the architect of La Scala, Giuseppe Piermarini, holding one of the tools of his trade: the compass. In his day, Piermarini was very active in Milan: he worked on the Royal Ducal Palace and the courtyard of the Brera Palace; he designed the Teatro alla Scala; he built what was later known as the Teatro Lirico, the Belgioioso Palace and Villa Reale at Monza. And yet, not everyone liked the façade of La Scala. Pietro Verri wrote in a letter: “The façade of the new theatre is most beautiful on paper and it surprised me when I saw it before building began, but now I am almost sorry”. But, just a few years later, in 1816, Stendhal wrote: “I arrive exhausted at seven o’clock in the evening. I run to La Scala. My journey was justified” He goes on to describe the beauty of the architecture, the dazzling drapes and the spectacle on stage where not only “the costumes, but even the faces and the gestures speak of the countries in which the action takes place. I saw it all this evening”. The legend of La Scala was born.