The “Camera di vetro”, the new room for the decorative arts on the second floor of the Toriense museum in Palazzo Madama, entirely designed and built with the contribution of Rotary Club Torino. The room is the result of a careful study of the design and rearrangement of the “Glass and Ivory Room”, a museum space historically dedicated to the exhibition of the collection of medieval goldsmiths, Renaissance bronzes, enamels, blown glass, carved ivories and the extraordinary collection of painted glass and gold graffiti glass. The new project has made it possible to transform this space from an exhibition gallery of many different techniques to a thematic room essentially dedicated to glass, presented in all its forms.
The new room is the result of a careful study of the design and rearrangement of the “Glass and Ivory Room”, a museum space historically dedicated to the exhibition of the collection of medieval goldsmiths, Renaissance bronzes, enamels, blown glass, carved ivories and the extraordinary collection of painted glass and gold graffiti glass.
The new project has made it possible to transform this hall from an exhibition gallery of many different technical types into a thematic room essentially dedicated to glass, presented in all its forms.
The setting, which collected suggestions from the glass galleries of the Murano Glass Museum, the Musée des Arts decoratifs in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, tells the story of this material so versatile through the works, the presentation of the components and tools used from antiquity to today for its manufacture. The result is a real glass Wunderkammer, a sparkling and suggestive place that illustrates the many techniques and even more numerous uses of glass.
Gold graffiti glasses and painted glass, champlevé enamel, painted enamel
Glasses for wearing
In the second half of the 16th century, in the so-called Counter-Reformation period (after 1545), the taste for small devotional objects spread in Italy. Gems, cameos, miniatures under crystal, enamels, jewels, medallions-reliquaries, all technically very refined and decorated with sacred subjects, were often used as jewels: worn as pendants, sewn on clothes, fastened to belts or even to the headboards of the beds.
Glasses for praying
All these objects, different by age, style and geographic origin, are united by an identical function: private prayer. Travel diptychs and triptychs, altars for aristocratic chapels or small studies, today intact or fragmentary, allowed monks, prelates and lay people, from the Middle Ages to the seventeenth century, to always have with them, during their travels, a sacred image to contact to pray and meditate.
Glass for decorative
In 16th and 17th century Europe, there is a great spread of engravings and woodcuts. In some cases these are original works, such as the series of xylographs by Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630) to illustrate Ovid’s Metamorphoses; other times of reproductions, for popular purposes, of famous paintings and drawings by Raphael and other protagonists of the Renaissance (such as the engravings of Marcantonio Raimondi, 1480-1534). The technique of painted glass allowed to easily transpose the subjects of the engravings on the glass plate, thus transforming a work on paper into a small precious painting rich in reflections, to be framed and presented on the wall or to be used as decoration on the drawers of the cabinets era. It proceeded in this way: the prints, inked along the contours of the figures and the various elements of the scene, were applied to the glass from the reverse and then removed, so as to leave traces of the contours on the support, then filled with color.
The project involved a refunctionalization of the original walnut briar showcases from 1933 – commissioned specifically for this room by the then director Vittorio Viale – and an innovative study of the support surfaces, the lighting system and the graphics, completely renewed and enriched with new narrative systems that contribute to accentuate the emotional and educational aspect of the visit.
There are many masterpieces on the route belonging to the museum’s collection of painted and gilded glass, which currently constitutes the richest collection in Italy and one of the most important in the world for historical and artistic value. Donated to the museum by Emanuele Taparelli d’Azeglio – a great collector of decorative arts and director of the Civic Museum of Turin until 1890 – this collection now has 190 specimens from the 13th to the 18th century.
The project also allowed the rediscovery and inclusion in the room of two exceptional works, both absolute novelties, in storage for more than 30 years and specially restored for the new set-up.
First of all, the Reliquary-acquasantino of the second half of the seventeenth century, a very rare piece purchased by the museum in 1881 at the behest of the director Emanuele d’Azeglio and then immediately sent to Murano, at the Compagnia Venezia Murano, to be restored. The work presents a type of decoration, with boquets of colored glass flowers, documented in the seventeenth century in Venice especially for the frames of large mirrors but hardly present in sacred furnishings and reliquaries of this type.
The new layout is also enhanced by the spectacular Chandelier that dominates the center of the room. Purchased from the City of Turin in 1928, it belongs to the typology of the famous chandelier designed by Giuseppe Briati for Ca ‘Rezzonico in Venice around 1750, born as a Venetian response to Bohemian faceted pendants. The specimen exhibited at Palazzo Madama – with 16 arms and 24 lights – presents a multitude of flowers, leaves and bells in crystal without polychromy, with the particularity of having all the metal arms entirely covered with tubular crystal elements arranged in a chain, which they hide the underlying metal structure and further contribute to the spectacular effect of the whole.
Palazzo Madama and Casaforte degli Acaja is an architectural and historical complex located in the central Piazza Castello in Turin. Having played a leading role in its history from Roman times through to the present day, it was declared a World Heritage Site with the other Residences of the House of Savoy in 1997. Palazzo Madama, as part of the Savoy Residences serial site. The building houses the Civic Museum of Ancient Art.
It is a combination of two thousand years of Turin ‘s history, from the ancient eastern gate of the Roman colony of Julia Augusta Taurinorum to a defensive stronghold, then to a real castle, a symbol of Savoy power until at least the sixteenth century, when the current Royal Palace, as the seat of the Duke of Savoy.
The western part of the first medieval complex was later called Palazzo Madama because it was first inhabited by Madama Cristina of Bourbon-France, called the “first Royal Madama”, in the period around 1620 – 1663, then fromMaria Giovanna Battista di Savoia-Nemours, called the “second Royal Madama”, in the period 1666 – 1724. It was for the latter that the current facade was designed, in 1716 – 1718, by the court architect Filippo Juvarra.
The visit covers four floors, where the centuries-old story of its construction interacts with the collections of the Museo Civico d’Arte Antica, which have been here since 1934.
The early centuries of the Middle Ages are illustrated in the Mediaeval Stonework Collection on the moat level, with its sculptures, mosaics, and jewellery dating from the Later Antique period to the Romanesque. The fifteenth-century rooms on the ground floor contain paintings, sculptures, miniatures and precious objects from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, mainly from Piedmont. In the circular room in the Treasure Tower there is a selection of masterpieces, including the famous Portrait of a Man by Antonello da Messina. On the piano nobile, with its stunning array of Baroque stuccoes and frescoes, there is the modern picture gallery with works from the Savoy Collections and an important selection of furniture made by Piedmontese, Italian, and French master cabinetmakers. Lastly, the top floor houses the decorative arts collections, which are a key part of the museum’s assets, with majolica and porcelain, glasswork and ivories, fabrics and lace, jewellery and metals, as well as the stunning collection of gilded, painted and sgraffito glass, unrivalled in terms of its quantity and quality.