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The collections reflect the nature of the house-museum of a personality - Vincenzo Vela - heavily involved in the events of his time as an artist and a patriot. Of the approximately 5000 works conserved in the museum, it is his collection of plaster casts that commands attention. Surprising for its quality and monumentality, it brings together the original plaster models of almost all his sculptural works.
In tandem with these are his terracotta and plaster preparatory models, which are unexpectedly complete and well-finished. The bequest also includes a thousand or so of the sculptor's autograph drawings and a remarkable set of photographs. Numbering around a thousand, this is one of Switzerland's earliest photographic collections.
Lorenzo Vela, a noted animalier sculptor, produced a body of works, mostly of animals, as well as several allegorical and genre figures.
It was Spartaco Vela, Vincenzo's son and a painter, who donated the Villa to the Swiss Confederation. The museum holds many of his oil paintings and their preparatory sketches, as well as works he produced.
The three Vela artists also collected contemporary paintings, each following his particular taste, and profited from their respective friendships with colleagues and members of the Academy. The three core collections, which have been brought together within the ambit of the Vela Museum, are one of the broadest collections of nineteenth-century painting from the Lombard and Piedmontese schools to belong to the Swiss Confederation.
The family library numbers more than 1500 volumes and provides an interesting starting point for the study of the creative course that led to Vincenzo Vela's many monuments.
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