Palace central to the Piazza Castello, Turin, now showcasing fine arts from the middle ages to the 18th century in the City Museum of Ancient Arts.
The building began life as part of the Roman fortifications of the city, enlarged in the early 1300’s and later embellished under the instruction of Queens of the House of Savoy, from where it took it’s name Madama (in particular Maria Jeanne of Savoy). As a favoured residence of both Christine Marie of France and Marie Jeanne of Savoy the palace was much improved, most notably with Juvarra’s Baroque-style façade but also internally with extensive artistic renovations. The artist Domenico Guidobono was a favourite of the duchess and his frescoes adorn the first floor halls and are referred to as the Guidobono halls.
An exhibition sits within one of the sumptuously decorated Guidobono halls. ‘The dispute of childhood’ features monumental ivory and walnut sculptures by Austrian sculptor Simon Troger (b. 1683 d. 1768) alongside paintings of the same subject matter by Agostino Masucci (b.1691 d.1758). Collectively they illustrate the theme of childhood strife through the artistic representation of biblical tales The Sacrifice of Isaac and The Judgement of Solomon. The museum also incorporates The Garden of the Princess, open all year during museum opening hours it operates a special program of events over the summer months including historic, botanical education and art workshops.
Despite being called the ‘Museum of Ancient Arts’ it does not in fact incorporate ancient arts. Artefacts from this era can be found within the Museo dell'Antichità at the nearby Palazzo Reale. The interim years between Palazzo Madama’s function as a royal residence and since 1934 as a museum it served various people in a variety of different ways; HQ for the French government during the Napoleonic Wars, King Charles Albert’s chosen location for the royal art gallery (Pinacoteca Regia), seat of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Sardinia and also as the High Court building.
A building of two-halves, the rear section shows the 14th century structure whilst the façade which overlooks Piazza Castello is an elegant architectural tour de force showcasing numerous classical features, including; Composite-order pilasters, arch-headed windows, three central bays, columns in front of a glazed loggia, relief carving, dentiled cornice, a frieze and decorative balustrade in white marble. This impressive façade was the only section to be completed in what was designed to be a complete overhaul of the structure at the start of the 18th century.
Palazzo Madama e Museo d’Arte Antica
Piazza Castello, 10122 Torino, Italy