The Accademia di Brera owns approximately eight hundred sculptures including casts from classical and Renaissance sculptures, original models, sculptures in marble and terracotta. Plaster casts from ancient sculptures, defined in the statutes as “educational furnishings”, have played an essential role in training artists ever since the institution was founded. The first pieces were later joined by plaster casts ( casts of statues, busts, bas-reliefs, architectural details) acquired in Rome by the administrator of the Accademia Giuseppe Bossi between 1801 and 1807, together with personal gifts by Napoleon Bonaparte such as Castor and Pollux and the Sleeping Hermaphroditus.
In 1809 the monumental plaster of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker by Antonio Canova arrives, recently restored and brought back to its original location, in the center of the Pinacoteca di Brera. The story of the acquistions of classical works continues in the following years with the impressive set of casts taken from the Parthenon marbles, now in the Sala Napoleonica and concludes with the arrival in 1907 of the Nike of Samothrace cast as displayed in the Louvre.
The casts of medieval and Renaissance works, intended mainly for the Ornament and Architecture Schools, arrived mainly from the middle of the century onwards; the cast of the Brivio monument in Sant’Eustorgio is visible on the walls of the S. Maria church. In 1807 Michelangelo’s group of the Quattro Crespuscoli arrived and on the occasion of the 1872 Exhibition of Ancient Art, the cast of the Monument of Gaston de Foix del Bambaia. The impressive collection of modern works is just as important: plaster and terracotta models, which have been collected since 1805 on the occasion of the annual sculpture awards, an invaluable record and endorsement of the training of Milanese sculptors.