The Standard of Milan

Scipione Delfinone, Camillo da Posterla, after drawings by Giuseppe Arcimboldi and Giuseppe Meda, The Standard of Milan, fabric, embroidery and tempera,1565-1566 (inv. arazzi 1) 

Location: Museo d’Arte Antica, Room VII

Carried out following a design by Giuseppe Arcimboldi and Giuseppe Meda, the banner was created in embroidery and tempera with additional inserts by the embroiderers Scipione Delfinone and Camillo da Posterla. The work, which is 5 meters in length and 3,50 meters wide, was commissioned by the Magnifica Comunità di Milano in 1565 and completed in 1566. On September 8th of that year, the Banner was shown to the people and blessed by Archbishop Carlo Borromeo. From iconographic evidence we know that it remained in use until the late 19th century.

The image of Saint Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, appears on both sides of the banner. In his right hand he is holding a whip, a traditional attribute alluding to the expulsion of the Arians, and in the left a very elaborate pastoral staff, a symbol of his episcopal role. The sumptuous robes of Ambrose are decorated using panels with scenes of the Annunciation, and scenes from the lives of Saints Peter, Paul and Barnabas, figures that are repeated in the knot of the pastoral staff, in the shape of a small temple. The mitre has inserts of polychrome gems. The patron saint of Milan is framed in a round arch, while the building behind him is decorated with scenes from his life.

The detail of the depiction and splendour of the materials make this work an extraordinary example of this refined art form.