One of the most curious buildings in the center of Milan, between the Scala and the Quadrilatero, is certainly Palazzo Leoni-Calchi. The façade, in fact, shows 8 imposing statues depicting men of enormous size (and even a little disturbing). These are “telamons”, or male sculptures, in the round or in high relief, used as a support, structural or decorative, often in place of columns: their name derives from Telamon, a mythological figure that “supports” and “supports” . They represent “defeated barbarians”, inspired by the statuary models of ancient Rome.
According to the chronicles of the time, the construction of the palace is due to the sculptor and engraver from Arezzo Leone Leoni, imperial sculptor in the service of Charles V of Habsburg and Philip II of Spain. The artist, appointed sculptor of the Mint of Milan in 1542, bought the property in 1549, and in 1565 he started the renovation, making it his own home and his son, Pompeo Leoni, also a sculptor.
They were both famous collectors and art dealers, and gathered inside the house a famous and eclectic collection of ancient art and works by the greatest artists of the time, among which works by Titian and Correggio, the collection of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci inherited from his pupil Francesco Melzi, plaster casts of classical statues including the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius from the Campidoglio. From the collection, which was subsequently dispersed, some works later merged with the Ambrosiana, including Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus.
The façade is made up of two orders and an attic, from a later period, and is vertically divided into seven compartments. On the ground floor they are divided by the eight colossal stone telamons. Above the heads of the barbarians the lineages to which they belong are indicated: Svevo, Quado, Adiabene, Parto, Sarmata and Marcomanno. They are alternated with two windows with a broken tympanum, and two other arched windows, subsequently opened in place of the niches that were previously there. On the main floor, recessed Ionic columns alternate with niches and windows to which balconies were added in the nineteenth century. In the central compartment of the frieze that runs under the eaves, the relief with the “Calunnia torn to pieces by lions” alludes to the house of the owners. Inside, restored by Portaluppi in 1929, the courtyard has a rectangular plan, with three porticoed wings and a frieze of metopes and triglyphs.