Arts & Tradition

The Italian Baroque at the Royal Palace of Turin

Larger than life: Art that inspires us through the ages
BY Jeff Perkin TIMEJune 13, 2022 PRINT

Constructed in the late Renaissance of 16th-century Italy, the Royal Palace of Turin was at the heart of the Savoy Dynasty for over two centuries. Today, the Royal Palace operates as a group of museums in Turin’s historically and culturally significant Piazza Castello. The palace’s bold and elegant Neoclassical façade houses many pinnacle examples of Italian Baroque design.

More than 20 homes and palaces were built by the Savoy Dynasty in and around Turin, with the Royal Palace as its crown jewel.

The palace grounds cover a large area in the heart of the subalpine city of Turin. Built in the 16th century by Vittorio Amedeo II, Carlo Emanuele III, and Vittorio Amedeo III, the palace interiors were later modernized in Baroque style by architect Filippo Juvarra. The accomplished architect designed many famous Italian churches and palaces in addition to stage sets and fine examples of Rococo design.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace is famously home to the Chapel of the Holy Shroud which was added to the palace in the 17th century. The chapel’s architecture is a feat of geometric vision by mathematician and architect, Guarino Guarini. Climbing with several distinct levels, the tower utilizes a myriad of arches and windows that form a dome and spire. The interior’s religiously significant design is a symphony of mathematical relationships, symbols, and patterns.

The Royal Palace is home to significant collections of both weaponry and art, not least of which is found in the famous Royal Armory. From floor to ceiling, the palace is decorated with exquisite design and expert artisanship. Seventeenth-century tapestries, frescoes, elaborate stucco designs, paintings, and fine vases fill the many unique rooms and halls of the palace. Its museums house priceless artifacts including a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci and the Shroud of Turin.

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The Royal Palace of Turin’s strong and elegant Neoclassical façade glows in white in the sprawling stone plaza of Piazza Castello. The strong lines and subtle detailing of the outer walls disguise the elaborately decorated Baroque rooms that wait within. (Tim Tregenza/CC BY-SA 3.0)
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The ballroom of the Royal Palace of Turin is an opulent space lit by eight shining chandeliers. A richly-detailed lacunar, a ceiling constructed with recessed panels, creates depth and complexity which is reflected by simulated coffer designs on the floor below. Large white pillars reach from floor to ceiling and a continuous mural of dancing women runs along the top of the walls below gold-painted cornices and bronze capitals. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)

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The Royal Armory of Turin was designed by Baroque architect Filippo Juvarra in 1733. The handsomely coved ceiling sits above a marble checkerboard floor that stretches from the Royal Palace to Palazzo Madama. With over 5,000 pieces of historic weapons and armor, the dramatic hall is home to one of the most famous collections in the world.  (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)

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The spectacular oil-painted ceiling of the Royal Armory features scenes depicting stories of Aeneas and the famous painting “Allegory of the Life of Man.” Painted by Claudio Francesco Beaumont, the paintings stretch down the hall on the coved ceiling which is paneled with sophisticated cartouche framing and gorgeous gold-painted stucco work. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)
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The staircase of the Royal Palace of Turin was constructed by Benedetto Alfieri as an access to offices of state. Sculptures of Spanish royalty stand proudly in apses and look out upon visitors in the towering space. Subtle shades of yellow and pale pink climb the walls that are richly layered with paneling, creating added dimension at each level.  (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)
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Gold-shining stucco decorations frame decorative Chinese panels and large mirrors in what once was a royal restroom. Designed by Filippo Juvarra, this Rococo restroom features a painted ceiling of a landscape scene, which centrally lifts into the sky with floating mythical figures. (Ambra75/CC BY-SA 4.0)
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The Chapel of the Holy Shroud was added to the Royal Palace of Turin in the 17th century. Built by Italian architect Guarino Guarini, the complex dome is engineered with marble blocks that interlock in a self-supporting fashion. The multi-tiered tower was designed to include different geometrical forms that contrast at each level. An interlacing pattern of windows sits above smooth undulating arches with a spire rising above. A fire severely damaged the church in 1997, leading to a monumental restoration effort that took 28 years to complete. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)
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The otherworldly interior of the Chapel of the Holy Shroud showcases the beautiful patterning on the dome’s inner walls. Spiraling layers of marble build to a central golden point in the tower far above; a dove at its center represents the Holy Spirit. The chapel’s architect Guarino Guarini was a mathematician and a priest. Guarini’s devotion to creating architecture of mathematical and religious significance is evident in this masterwork of form and light.  (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)
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This palatial hall, modeled after royal French architecture, once led to the chambers of Vittorio Amedeo II. It is named Galleria del Daniel because of the painted ceilings by 17th-century artist Daniel Seiter. Seiter’s ceiling includes depictions of Jupiter, Apollo, and the “Apotheosis of a Hero,” which features Seiter’s patron, Amadeo II. A long gold-painted cornice beautifully links gold borders on the ceilings and walls. (Ambra75/CC BY-SA 4.0)
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The throne room of the palace is covered in gold and crimson, showcasing the luxurious excess of the Royal Palace. The throne itself looks small under its canopy in the highly decorated and mirrored space. A gold balustrade of intricate design separates the king’s seat from those who would have stood before him. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)
Jeff Perkin
Jeff Perkin is a graphic artist and integrative nutrition health coach. He can be reached WholySelf.com
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