September 15, 1867. The inauguration and the opening of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

A little more than two years after the laying of the foundation stone, the construction (with the exception of the entrance arch on Piazza del Duomo side) was deemed completed and the gallery could proudly open “to the public and trade.” Once again King Vittorio Emanuele II attended the opening ceremony on Sunday, September 15, 1867.

Executive Council of the Milan. Announcement of the inauguration of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele with King Vittorio Emanuele II attending, 14 September 1867, Milano City Historical Archives Biblioteca Trivulziana, P.R 1382.

From the beginning the King had shown appreciation and support for the Galleria initiative, agreeing with the opinion expressed by Mayor Beretta and the municipalities as a whole, who viewed it as a piece of evidence of a “successful union between Italian art and foreign capital, and a beneficial occasion for working classes”: a project with a great material, technical and civil significance, not only for Milan, but for the entire country.

At the time of the inauguration, the covered “walkway” looked like a “great hall”, “enclosed” between the elegant and daring cast iron and glass coverage, the polychrome floor, the facades adorned by pilasters decorated with stuccos and decorative cement, wrought iron and the coats of arms of the main Italian cities in colored enamels, the statues of famous Italians, and of course, the shops on the ground floor, rich in goods and sparkling crystals, “closed” as they were “by large glass doors.” Some photographs show the gallery in a suspended atmosphere, waiting for the King and the opening ceremony, with people crammed in line on the wrought iron balcony or behind the windows, overlooking a large theater space, ready for the first big show.

The day of the inauguration of Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery (15 September 1867), showing the hasten crowd to the Ceremony by “L’Illustrazione Universale”, 13 October 1867.

His Majesty, together with representatives from the Government, the city of Milan and the English Society, and with architect Mengoni, followed at a distance by the Milanese citizens admitted to the event, was walked inside from the foyer toward Piazza della Scala and led to the center of the octagon where Mayor Antonio Beretta and the representative from the British company, Alfred Lowe, delivered some short “addresses”.

After admiring the great work completed in such a short time, the King visited the undergrounds and headed towards the Duomo, where the open yards for the new square buildings and the arched entrance were located, being particularly pleased, as we we read in documents, ” to see that work had began and proceeded apace along the northern side” of the square.

Perhaps he was still unaware of the English Society’s financial difficulties, which would have driven it into bankruptcy and could not predict the stalemate the work would have reached, which lasted several years before the resumption of work and their slow definite completion.

Giovan Battista Ganzini, View of the arm of the Gallery toward Piazza Scala before the Inauguration. The guests can be see on the balconies, 15 September 1867 Milan, Photographic Archives, inv. FM C 43/4.Alfred Noack, View of the arm of the Gallery toward Piazza della Scala, with first shops. Semptember 1867. Milan, Photographic Archives, inv. inv. Volume G 107/49.years

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