In 1926 a group of intelligent and generous citizens set up the Friends of Brera association with the aim of supporting, enhancing and helping to increase the extremely rich heritage of the Brera complex and the Milan museum system.
1939 was notable for one of the most important donations made by the Friends to Brera: the gift of Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus. But it was also the year when the Association was suppressed by the fascist government.
Only in the post-war period, through the determined work of Fernanda Wittgens, was the Friends of Brera re-established. These were busy years, with important donations being made to the Museum by members and trustees, including whole collections such as the Jesi and Vitali donations, and works by Giovanni da Milano and Segantini. This policy of donations continues today, with the recent examples of the work of the Master of the Sforza Altarpiece or the portrait by Cesare Tallone donated by Filippo Crivelli.
In 1986 an important agreement was signed with the Istituto Bancario San Paolo di Torino, thanks to the commitment of the Brion family. Numerous structural works were also carried out, such as the new entrance to the Botanical Garden from Via Fratelli Gabba, the lighting of the Bellini, Veronese, Tintoretto and Caravaggio rooms and the complete reorganisation of the Sala della Passione.
To these should be added the restoration of fundamental works in Brera: the statue of Napoleon by Canova, an icon of the gallery set in the centre of the courtyard (thanks to an important contribution from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch) and the numerous paintings restored in the open-view laboratory as part of the museum itinerary with a contribution from Pirelli. The rich and varied cultural and educational activities, the trips and guided tours together with visits for non-EU citizens conducted by the Association have always been fundamental activities aimed at involving an ever-broader public.