Guided visits to the museum’s storerooms of the Municipality of Milan


Info and booking:

T. 02 54917

(Monday–Friday from 10am to 5pm)
Groups: € 110,00 / in languages other than Italian € 130,00
Schools: general visit € 80,00 / in languages other than Italian € 100,00

Charge for advance sales:
€ 1,00 on every reduced school ticket
€ 2,00 on every reduced group or full-price ticket

Groups are to be understood as consisting of no fewer than 15 visitors and no more than 25.

The charge of guided visits are intend not comprehensive of entry to the museum. Booking is obligatory.

Visible storerooms

The centre collection is visible in the museum’s storages on the ground floor and can be visited by the public on appointment. The displays have been arranged according to geographical and chronological criteria and the provenance of the works: West and Central Africa, the Middle East and Far East, South America and Central America, Southeast Asia, and lastly, Oceania. The earliest works bequeathed to the museum come from a number of Milan’s state institutions such as the Brera Archaeological Museum, the Municipal Art Museum and the Museum of Natural History, while more recently, as the project for the Museum of Cultures became a reality, works have been acquired from or bequeathed by private parties. The works in the municipal art collections comprise over 7,000 objects that span three millennia, from 1500 A.D. to the twentieth century.

The Pre-Columbian and American Indian Collection: 1,627 items
The African collection: 1,162 items

The Alessandro Passaré Collection of African and Oceanic works of art: 448 items
The Franco Monti Collection of African works: 33 items

The Islamic art collection: 436 items

The Chinese collection : 1,028 items 
The Japanese Collection:1,574 items

The Southeast Asian Collection: 285 items

The Mariangela Fardella and Giorgio Azzaroli collection of Asmat art: 26 items

The ethnographic collection of musical instruments: 295 items
The collection of hats and fans: 92 items


One’s visit to the museum’s storerooms starts off in the African section. The African art collection is divided into two parts. The first is a series of objects from the earliest holdings of the Sforza Castle museums; they belonged to the ethnographic collections put together during the period of Italy’s colonial expansion into Eastern Africa and were brought back to Italy by 19th-century travellers such as Giuseppe Vigoni and Achille Bertarelli. This small number of artefacts which survived the bombing of Milan in 1943 has been selected for the display case that opens the section devoted to the African continent.

The second group of sculptures and masks comes from Sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, part of the collections belong to the well-known scholar Ezio Bassani, the physician Alessandro Passaré and Franco Monti.
Lastly, the collection includes masks and ceremonial sculptures in addition to a sizeable number of utensils and other objects (such as carved wooden doors and locks from Mali) and several small clay statues from the ninth up to the sixteenth centuries. Overall, this collection offers an introduction to the material production of West and Central Africa.


Guinea, Baga People, 20th century, wood, metal tacks. Nimba, ritual mask for shoulders. This particular mask, which represents the mother, shows the parallel between the fertility of women and fields. His performances propitiate the birth and the rains, the growth of children and rice.


Congo, Bakongo People, 20th century, wood, mirror, resin. The reliquary statuette shows a full and realistic face typical of the Bakongo style. The arms, rest on the chest, hold up a reliquary closed by a glass that covers the whole surface of the body. Inside the “medicine” is conserved.


Democratic Republic of Congo, Hemba People, 20th century, wood. Singiti, ancestor figure. The different hemba groups express their veneration for the ancestors through these representations , characterized by the calm expression and prominent belly, symbol of fertility and link between generations.


The next section of the museum is devoted to China. The objects consist mainly of pottery and porcelain, and allow visitors to trace the history of the use of these materials from the Tang dynasty (618-906 A.D.)
to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and up to the 18th century and the production of works known as ‘chine de commande’: extensive table services made in China on commission, for export to the West.


Chinese production, Tang dynasty, 618-906 A.D., glazed terracotta. Bixie, horned sphinx, is a particular "Spirit of the Earth": a guardian of the tombs during the Tang era. Its name literally means "one who drives away harmful influences".

Chinese production, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), stoneware. Green celadon craqueleur vase. Similar in shape to the meiping vases, bulging near the top and tapered at the base, it is displayed with a three-legged saucer (the legs are shaped like lion’s paws). The use of celadon was born in China around the 3th century: despite being known for a long time in Europe, only at the end of the 19th century it started to be interesting among pottery makers.


Chinese production, 18th century, porcelain. ‘Chine de commande’ tea service. In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a growing interest in Europe in the so-called “chinoiserie”, resulting in a brisk demand for items such as porcelains, lacquers, paintings, bronzes and jades. The city of Canton duly specialized in providing articles on commission, produced exclusively for export to the West.


The museum’s collection of Japanese art includes over 1,500 articles from the Momoyama period (1573-1615) up to the Meiji period (1868-1912). The collection of porcelains, fabrics, bronzes, armours, lacquers, ivories and items strictly connected with the Japanese tradition provides a clear picture of the history of the arts and culture of this country.
In the middle of this section is shown an extraordinary lacquered wood saddle and mask from the Edo period (1603-1868). Along the sides, western-style wooden furniture made in Japan have been placed, as well as two-panel wooden screens with different colored lacquers, featuring maki-e (“sprinkled picture”) with ivory inlays (Meiji Restoration 1868-1912).

Japanese manufacture, 18th century, wood, leather, iron, silver, papier-mache, silk. A horse’s saddle (umayoroi) consisting of a saddle (kura) in nashiji (“pearskin”) lacquered wood, silverplated and decorated with vines and fruits in relief (takamaki-e) and gold leaf at the centre. Finishings in gold relief decorations. Iron stirrups (abumi) with a silver inlay of a chrysanthemum. Checkered leather saddle pad. Caparison plated with gilt leather squares.

Japanese manufacture, 17th century, wood, lacquer, gilt copper, silver, gold. Document box (bunko) made of lacquered wood, decorated with different maki-e-style (“sprinkled picture”) techniques. The images depicted in the decoration were inspired by the Hatsune chapter of the “Tale of Genji”: on the surface of the box a pavilion, stream and a series of pine trees (matsu) are depicted. In addition, the mon (family crest) of the Tokugawa occurs repeatedly, along with the inscription of a 31-syllable poem.

Japanese manufacture, ceramic vase, last quarter of the 19th century. Glazed ceramic vase, enamelled and partially gilded, globe-shaped and three-legged with lion’s paws legs, the upper part of which, attached to the body of the vase, emerge from the open jaws of a Chinese lion (karashishi). The flattened spherical lid of the vase has a handle in the shape of a free-standing Chinese lion (karashishi). The entire outer surface of the vase is covered with an exuberant decoration consisting of polychrome enamels and gold, naturalistic floral motifs, and geometrical inlays.


The collection devoted to pre-Hispanic and American Indian art consist of pottery, fabrics and objects made from a wide range of materials (e.g. feathers, seeds, ivory, wood and precious metals). It testifies the variety of items produced in Central and South America, from archaeological findings in Mesoamerica and the Andes (enriched by generous bequests by Federico Balzarotti and Giovanna Torricelli)
to modern-day (contemporary ethnography of Brazil, bequeathed to MUDEC by the physician and world traveller Aldo Lo Curto). The collection of pottery from the Andes covers a vast time frame from the end of Formative period (1500 B.C.) to the Spanish conquest (17th century).


Peru, Moche culture, Phase IV (100 B.C. – 850 A.D.), terracotta. Bottle with stirrup handle. The chamber of the bottle is decorated with a long procession of elite members holding hands that spirals upwards around the bottle from the bottom to the top. This is most likely a depiction of a ritual dance, while the line on which the figures are placed may represent a ramp leading up to a ceremonial platform.

Peru, Inca culture, 15th - 16th centuries, cotton and camelid hair wool. Rectangular polychrome textile that depicts a series of quills of the kind applied to certain Andean ceremonial costumes. The warp of the fabric is made of cotton, while the tapestry weft is made of camelid hair, fiber and cotton.

Brazil, Kayapo culture, second half of the 20th century, cotton, feathers and vegetable fibers. Ornamental headdress made of cotton, quills and feathers. The cotton base consists of numerous interwoven strings. The 181 quills (153 red and 28 brown) are arranged in a single row and grow taller at the top of the headpiece, which is attached to a base made of buritì palm fiber by means of special laces. Used by high-ranking males on ritual occasions.


In this section are collected objects from the Islamic areas: North Africa, the Near East and parts of Central Asia. Very relevant is the collection of carpets, dating from the 16th to the 19th century, which includes exemplars from the Ushak manufacture (16th – 17th century). Some pillows from the city of Bursa, where there was a famous imperial factory, are also on display
The collection also includes an exhibition of ceramics, ornamental or for everyday use, the oldest ones from Iran and Syria dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. Among the ceramics are reported numerous tiles from Syria dating from the 16th and 17th centuries that were used to embellish the sacred buildings.

Turkey, 17th century, silk velvet. Textile decorated with staggered rows of large stylized brocaded carnations on a red background. Each flower shape is a composite: from an arabesque motif two serrate leaves (saz) emerge, with a stylized tulip between them; the tulips in turn contain seven fringed carnation petals. Along the short sides of the textile are six sections depicting other stylized floral motifs. The stylized carnation in bloom was one of the most popular motifs for the textiles made in Bursa on the imperial looms and many variations exist.


Central Asia, 17th – 18th centuries, wood, ivory and leather. Saddle wood covered with leather edges and decorations in bone, lacquered in green. It presents a central floral motif depicting a tulip, one of the four classic flowers of Islamic art.

Syria, 16th - 17th centuries, ceramic tile. Square tile with a blue, green and white decoration beneath a transparent glazing. The decoration consists of two facing parrots and part of a medallion defined by a serrate ribbon that contains small flowers painted in negative. The entire surface is covered with large roses in bloom, sinuous flowering branches, bunches of grapes and vines.


The collection of Southeast Asian art can boast a great variety of works of different kinds, made of an array of materials from many different periods, including textiles, Indian clothing, 20th century weapons and ornamental items from the Solomon Islands. The collection keeps growing, thanks to bequests by missionaries and private collectors.
Its original core was a 19th century bequest by the PIME (The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), enriched by subsequent bequests and loans by benefactors from Milan such as Alessandro Passaré and Aldo Lo Curto. Recently the collection has been enriched with purchase and loan of Asmat's culture objects from the private collections of Leigheb – Fiore and Fardella - Azzaroli.

Thailand, Ban Chiang, 300 BC - 200 AD., Terracotta, burial pot with red decorations. These vessels, decorated with red spirals and hooks, are typical of the burial sites of Ban Chiang in the northeast of Thailand. Usually, they were buried with the body, containing food or other items for the deceased in his afterlife passing.

Indonesia, 20th century, metal and wood. Kris (dagger) with wavy blade and wooden hilt. Every part of these knives is very finely wrought, with infinite variations. For the Indonesian peoples, the kris has great symbolic value; tradition holds that especially if it is very old and well-made, it has its own “soul”.

Western Indonesia, Nias island, 20th century, metal, wood, wicker, bone. Balato, a sword with a basket filled with teeth attached to the sheath of the weapon.


The visit to the museum’s holdings is rounded out by a section devoted to musical instruments which overlaps with all the other sections as the instruments come from all the geographical areas covered.
Different kinds of items are on display, grouped according to cultural or geographical criteria.

Pakistan, first half of the 20th century, wood, leather, horsehair, steel, brass, mirror, nylon. Sarinda (archlute), heart-shaped resonator partially covered in leather, which forms the soundboard featuring five inlaid round mirrors surrounded by smaller silver-coloured rings; the same decoration on the sides and the scrall; six tuning pegs (four missing). Various decorations with tufts of coloured thread.

India, late 20th century, wood, steel, copper, brass, wax, pumpkin. Sarasvati Vina (plucked lute). This is the most common chordophone played in classical music in Southern India, mainly by members of the Brahmin caste in the four states in that region of the country. The instrument is usually used for the sangita, a tradition of musical art through which a master teacher orally transmitted his technique, repertoire and personal performing style to his students after a lengthy apprenticeship.

Afghanistan, first half of the 20th century, wood, leather, ivory, metal, natural fibres, mother-of-pearl, plastic, horsehair. Rabab (lute). The Afghan lute is a short-necked lute made from a single block of mulberry wood. Afghanis consider the rabab their national instrument and it is played alone or with the accompaniment of a voice.