Hunting lodge of Stupinigi, Piedmont, Italy

The Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi is one of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy in northern Italy, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Built as a royal hunting lodge in the early 18th century, it is located in Stupinigi, a suburb of the town of Nichelino, 10 km (6 mi) southwest of Turin

The hunting lodge of Stupinigi is located in the only hamlet of the same name in the municipality of Nichelino, 10 kilometers south of Turin, in Italy. With the term hunting lodge, the palatine complex is properly understood; the domains of Stupinigi, however, included the current Stupinigi Natural Park.

The origins
The territory defined in the Middle Ages Suppunicum, already had a small castle, still visible to the east of the building (via Vinovo di Stupinigi), which in ancient times had been built with the intent to defend the town of Moncalieri: it was a possession of the Savoia-Acaia, a cadet branch of the reigning dynasty of Piedmont, and passed under the ownership of Duke Amedeo VIII of Savoia only when the last of the Acaia died, in 1418. Amedeo VIII therefore decided to leave the castle in ownership in 1439 to a member of the family with whom he was related, the Marquis Pallavicino di Zibello.

The Savoy, however, managed to regain possession of it when Emanuele Filiberto claimed its ownership in 1564 by expropriating it from the Pallavicinos. By the will of the duke, the castle and the adjacent lands were therefore left to the Mauritian Order. Since the Grand Master of the Order was also the head of the House of Savoy at the same time, the Stupinigi fort was found to be managed directly by the various Savoy sovereigns. It was during the period of Emanuele Filiberto that the rich lands adjacent to the castle became one of the favorite places of the king and his court for hunting trips, together with the woods of Altessano (where in the mid-seventeenth century theroyal palace of Venaria).

The eighteenth century
It was Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy who decided to transform the complex into forms worthy of the royal title to which Casa Savoia had ascended. In April 1729, when he had already decided to abdicate, he entrusted the project to Filippo Juvarra. A sort of legacy for his first civil architect and for his son Carlo Emanuele III. Formally, as repeated in numerous locations, the hunting lodge was inaugurated at the feast of Saint Hubertus in 1731 and since then numerous hunting trips were held there. However, the factory was finished (in its Juvarrian phase) only with the works of the three years 1735-37, when, among other things, the decoration of the apartments of the king and queen ended. Because ofPolish succession war the real inauguration of the complex to court life occurred, however, in May 1739, on the occasion of the visit to Turin of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Francesco II, future emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and brother of the Queen of Sardinia Elizabeth Teresa.

It is important to understand that, in the eighteenth century, Stupinigi was not a real residence, in the sense of a place where sovereigns and courts moved for shorter or longer stays. As recent studies show, the Savoy rulers resided in Turin only for a few months, normally from Christmas to Easter: after which they began to move to the circuit of residences that surrounded the capital, alternating such stays with trips outside Piedmont (especially in Savoy and, more rarely, in the Nice area). Their main residences remained the Venaria and Moncalieri until the end of the eighteenth century. Stupinigi was normally used as a hunting lodge, and was a place for short stays, normally one or two nights at most. This explains why until the Restoration, Stupinigi did not have its own governor (as Venaria and Moncalieri had instead).

Although the residences of Venaria and Moncalieri (the latter especially from 1773, with the ascent to the throne of Vittorio Amedeo III and Maria Antonia Ferdinanda) remained the main seats of the court celebrations, from the sixties of the eighteenth century also Stupinigi was used, albeit occasionally, for important receptions, especially on the occasion of visits by important guests. Of great importance was the feast of 1773 for the marriage between Maria Teresa of Savoy and the count of Artois (the future king of France Charles X). Among the guests should be remembered at least the emperor Joseph II, in 1769, the Tsarevich Paul Romanov(future Tsar Paul I) and his wife in 1782, and the king of Naples Ferdinand I of Bourbon, with his wife Carolina, in 1785.

The construction was enlarged during the reigns of Carlo Emanuele III and Vittorio Amedeo III with the contribution of other architects, including Prunotto, Bo and Alfieri. In 1740 two more wings were added, housing the stables and farm sheds that flank the long tree-lined avenue leading to the estate.

The nineteenth century
Napoleon Bonaparte stayed at the palace from 5 May to 16 May 1805, before going to Milan to gird the Iron Crown. Here he discussed with the main political offices of Turin, welcoming the mayor, the judiciary and the clergy, headed by Archbishop Buronzo. It seems that the cardinal, severely reprimanded by the emperor for his alleged correspondences with Carlo Emanuele IV of Savoy, was the subject of a discussion which resulted in his replacement with the bishop of Acqui Terme, Monsignor Giacinto della Torre.

In 1808, albeit always for short periods, she stayed at the Paolina Bonaparte building with her husband, Prince Camillo Borghese, then governor general of Piedmont.

In 1832 the building returned to being owned by the royal family and on 12 April 1842 the wedding was celebrated between Vittorio Emanuele II, future first king of Italy, and the Austrian Maria Adelaide of Habsburg-Lorraine. The complex was then sold to the state property in 1919 and in 1925 it was returned, with the surrounding properties, to the Mauritian Order.

In the nineteenth century it hosted for several years a male Indian elephant, which had been given to Carlo Felice. The elephant Fritz became famous, but after a few years the elephant went mad and began to destroy what surrounded him (the signs are still visible on the wooden parts); it was shot down and donated to the zoological museum of the University of Turin. Currently the stuffed animal is on display at the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of Turin. Since 1919the Stupinigi building houses the Museum of art and furniture, bringing together many pieces of furniture from the Savoy residences as well as others belonging to the pre-unitary Italian courts, such as that of the Bourbons of Parma and their Ducal Palace of Colorno.

The long restoration project, which began in 1988, was overseen by the architects Roberto Gabetti, Maurizio Momo, and the Isolarchitetti studio (Aimaro Oreglia d’Isola).

The building periodically hosts international art exhibitions.

The governor of Stupinigi
Contrary to what happened in the other Savoy palaces in Piedmont, the position of governor of Stupinigi was assigned to the commander of Venaria, that is, to number two of the organigram of the Reggia. The governor of Venaria, in fact, also held the position of great hunter of Savoy and his deputy was the commander of the crew. Since Stupinigi was used almost exclusively as a hunting lodge, in those cases the hunting crew of Venaria moved in it, nothing more natural than the command of the hunting crew, as well as number two of the Venaria, was assigned by right the command from Stupinigi.

The three commanders of Stupinigi who succeeded each other between 1751 and 1836they had all started their careers at the Reggia di Venaria. Paolo Giuseppe Avogadro di Casanova, commander from 1751 to 1769, had been named “gentleman of Venaria” in 1736; Luigi Ciaffaleone di Villabona, commander from 1777 to 1791, had started his career at court as “page of Venaria”, becoming “gentleman of Venaria” in 1754; Luigi Umoglio della Vernea, last commander of Stupinigi, followed the same career: “page of Venaria” (1770 c.), “Gentleman of Venaria” (1776) and, finally, commander in 1791; lost its role during the French occupation of 1796, it recovered it at the Restoration, keeping it up to the Charles-Albertine age. The governor of Stupinigi, therefore, was such as commander of the crew and was subject to direct employee of the governor of Venaria and Gran Cacciatore di Savoia.

The plan of the building is defined by the figure of the four cross arms of Sant’Andrea, interspersed with the central axis that coincides with the path that leads from Turin to the palace through a beautiful tree-lined avenue that flanks farmhouses and stables, ancient dependencies of the building.

The central nucleus consists of a large central oval-shaped hall from which four lower arms depart to form a cross of Saint Andrew. In the arms are located the royal apartments and those for guests. The heart of the building is the large double height oval hall with “concave-convex” balconies, surmounted by the statue of the Deer, by Francesco Ladatte: with Juvarra’s departure from Turin (destination Madrid), Prince Charles Emanuele III entrusted the direction of the works to Giovanni Tommaso Prunotto, who proceeded to expand the building starting from the sketches left by the architect from Messina, thus trying to safeguard the complex play of light and shapes dear to his predecessor. This is how a large number of artists were called to court in the “Real Fabrica” to decorate the new rooms. The interior is in Italian Rococo, made up of precious materials such as lacquers, porcelain, gilded stuccos, mirrors and briars which, today, extend an area of about 31,000 square meters, while 14,000 are occupied by the adjacent buildings, 150,000 by the park and 3,800 from the external flower beds; overall, there are 137 rooms and 17 galleries.

The building protrudes anteriorly enclosing a vast octagonal courtyard, onto which the service buildings overlook.

Among the fine pieces of furniture made for the building, mention should be made of the carver Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo, Pietro Piffetti and Luigi Prinotto. The building preserves decorations by the Venetian painters Giuseppe and Domenico Valeriani, by Gaetano Perego, and the Viennese Christan Wehrlin. The frescoes by Vittorio Amedeo Cignaroli, Gian Battista Crosato and Carlo Andrea Van Loo should also be mentioned.

Starting from the entrance to the complex, you enter the vast area of the Galleria dei Ritratti, which was part of the lateral stables designed and built by Filippo Juvarra after the completion of the central complex of the building. This space was therefore used for the storage of carriages and the shelter of horses during hunting trips. Here today is the original statue of the Stupinigi deer made by Francesco Ladatte in 1766 which overlooked the dome of the central hall and which was sheltered in the hall in 1992 and replaced with a modern bronze copy for conservation reasons. The sculpture is surrounded by portraits carved in low relief in wood on commission byVittorio Emanuele II and originally intended for the Moncalieri Castle. In the first library and then in the library, you can find the change in taste of the mid-eighteenth century, that is when the stables area was reduced to make room for a partitioned library with shelves designed by Benedetto Alfieri and painted in colors such as blue, ivory and gold, accompanied by allegories of the arts and sciences painted by Giuseppe Nogari as an over door.

The Duke of Chablais Apartment
Also called “Appartamento di Levante” (as opposed to the specular Appartamento di Ponente), the set of rooms was enlarged under the direction of Benedetto Alfieri in the 18th century to accommodate the rooms of Benedetto di Savoia, Duke of Chiablese and son of King Carlo Emanuele III. The Apartment of the Levant has been the subject of a restoration work financed also thanks to the funds of the Lotto Game, according to what is regulated by law 662/96.

Games Room
The room of greatest consistency for size and style in the apartments of the Duke of Chiablese is undoubtedly the game room, a large space intended for the recreation of the court inserted in a rectangular room with rounded corners and two large niches on the sides more short. The ceiling, decorated by Giovanni Pietro Pozzo in 1765, takes up the same exotic and oriental motifs as the walls which play the role of elegant frame for the game furniture inside the room: a mid-18th century living room, a game table in Louis XV stylewith a precious chessboard, inlaid in ebony and ivory, as well as a desk with refined inlaid ivory figures from the beginning of the 18th century. Also interesting are the chinoiserie and porcelain in this environment that are well suited to the exotic decoration of the complex.

Hall of mirrors and cabinet of Paolina Bonaparte
These two adjoining rooms represent a unicum inside the palace. The first, decorated with a very particular rococo taste, is decorated with stuccos and mirrors from the walls to the ceiling, always on the idea of Giovanni Pietro Pozzo in 1766 with the help of Michele Antonio Rapous in the realization of the boiserie. The chandelier is older, dating back to the 1840s and decorated with wrought iron bird sculptures.

The cabinet of Paolina Bonaparte owes its fame to the fact that it was made to equip in its current forms by Paolina Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister, during her time in the palace when she was appointed governor of Piedmont with her husband. The room, small in size, houses a splendid marble bath tub, decorated with bas-reliefs representing the imperial insignia with the Napoleonic eagle.

Bonzanigo room
Became famous for the cabinet (which served as a library and desk) made by Bonzanigo, to which the room is now linked, this environment was also the scene of the work of other artists, including Giovanni Battista Alberoni, who created the ceiling fresco (1753), and Pietro Domenico Olivero, who took care of the over door between 1749 and 1753. To detach from the baroque decorations is the furniture, in classicist style, among which stands out the mirror of Bonzanigo which embeds an oval portrait (whose frame is also by the artist from Asti) depicting Giuseppe Benedetto di Savoia, count of Moriana.

Pre-closet room
Also called “Sala delle Cacce”, this room is decorated with a green damask cloth on the walls and with hunting scenes painted in 1753 by the Piedmontese painter Giovanni Battista Alberoni. The fame and name of the room itself, however, refer to a “pregadio”, that is a kneeler finely inlaid by the cabinetmaker Pietro Piffetti in 1758, made of walnut briar with inclusions in gilded bronze and characterized by a sumptuous coping.

The duke’s bedroom is characterized by an original purplish-red wallpaper fabric, with an over-door decorated in 1763 by Michele Antonio Rapous with flower and fruit motifs. Here are collected some of the most important and precious Piedmontese style furniture in the hunting lodge, among which a chest of drawers, a desk and a kneeler made by the cabinetmaker Pietro Piffetti with inlays of various woods, ivory, brass, turtle and mother of pearl stand out. In the room there is a four-poster bed with red Louis XV-style drapery.

Queen Apartment
The queen’s apartment was built in the thirties of the eighteenth century for Polissena d’Assia-Rheinfels-Rotenburg, wife of Carlo Emanuele III of Savoy, in order to host her during the stays of the court at the palace for the seasonal hunting trips.

Ante-Room and the Queen
Frescoed between 1733 and 1734 by the painter Giovanni Battista Crosato (formerly operating at the villa La Tesoriera) with the painting on the ceiling depicting the sacrifice of Iphigenia, surrounded by eighteenth-century views, the queen’s anteroom is one of the four rooms overlooking the central hall of the building. Between 1738 and 1739 the frescoes were flanked by the new production of the painter Francesco Casoli, which were partially joined by the work of Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo who remodeled the room from 1786, proposing it again in Louis XVI style. In this anteroom there are four oval paintings depicting princesses of the Savoy house, by an unknown artist, including Maria Giovanna Battista di Savoia-Nemours and Maria Cristina of Bourbon-France. Interesting are the frame decorations on the walls, made of blue glass and golden metal, always made by Bonzanigo.

In the neighboring bedroom of the queen, however, the ceiling is frescoed by Charles-André van Loo with a Rest of Diana among the nymphs associated with period boiserie and rocaille decorations. Attached to the bedroom is the toilet of the queen’s dressing table, decorated with Chinese figures and polychrome putti.

Apartment of the King
Also this apartment, like the twin one of the Queen’s apartments, had an anteroom, a bedroom and a toilet reserved for the sovereign. The spaces were built for Carlo Emanuele III of Savoy in the early 1830s and then modernized at the behest of Vittorio Amedeo III in the second half of the same century.

Sala degli Scudieri
Also like the previous antechambers described, connected to the main hall of the building, the Sala degli Scudieri, was one of the first rooms of the structure to be frescoed, in 1733, by Giovanni Battista Crosato and Gerolamo Mengozzi Colonna with mythological scenes. On the contrary, the creation of painted doors and overheads dates back only to 1778, when Vittorio Amedeo Cignaroli portrayed deer hunting scenes in the Savoy residences, paintings perhaps inspired by the cycle of ideal hunts created by the Flemish Jean Miel for the Royal Palace of Venaria Reale.

Ante-Room and the king
Unfinished until 1737 for Filippo Juvarra’s departure for the Spanish court, the king’s antechamber was entrusted, like other wings of the building, to the supervision of Giovanni Tommaso Prunotto, who succeeded Messina in the Stupinigi factory. The frescoes were entrusted to Michele Antonio Milocco with scenes always taken from the myth of Diana, painted under the direct control of Claudio Francesco Beaumont. The furniture present is in Louis XV and Louis XVI style; the over doors and the decorations on them are of particular value, with paintings by Pietro Domenico Olivero. On the walls there are portraits signed by Jean-Étienne Liotard.

The king’s bedroom, adjoining the antechamber, carries a non-original wallpaper on the walls as it was rebuilt after the Second World War due to the serious damage it had suffered over time. In addition to paintings by Jean-Étienne Liotard, the walls also have over-doors with grotesques painted by Giovanni Francesco Fariano. Interesting in this room are a pregadio and a medal collection by Pietro Piffetti from the first half of the eighteenth century. In the cabinet of the sovereign, adjacent to the bedroom, there is also a splendid portrait of Queen Polissena Cristina of Hesse-Rotenburg with her children, painted by the painter Martin van Meytens.

Chapel of Sant’Uberto
Until 1767 called “Sala delli Buffetti” because of the banquets that were held here, it was renamed “chapel of Saint Hubert” when it was precisely used as a chapel dedicated to Saint Hubert or, better precisely, an ancient chapel, in relation to the truth and own religious space built behind the main wall, normally covered by two large painted wooden antons. The transformation of the Buffetti Room was done by Ignazio Birago, Giacomo Borri, Ignazio Nipote and Gaetano Perego, who decorated the ceiling and took care of the stuccos.

The central hall
The central hall, the real heart of the building, was the first idea of Juvarra to be completed and the fulcrum around which his entire project for the complex developed. The room looks like a large oval-shaped room culminating in a dome closed by a vaulted ceiling, with no lantern and no upper openings. As early as 1730, the wall structure of the same hall could be said to be completed and on February 10, 1731 the king commissioned the Bolognese brothers Giuseppe and Domenico Valeriani to paint a large fresco on the vault, depicting the Triumph of Diana., the classic goddess of hunting that appears in the representation in the clouds, above a celestial chariot above forests and woods. There are also putti with game or garlands of flowers, flanked by nymphs and sylvan geniuses.

At the apex of the four pillars that support the dome of the hall, just below the large fresco, there are four monochrome medallions representing other episodes relating to the same divinity. The works for the realization of these frescoes began already on March 8, ending in 1733. It seems that Juvarra imposed the quadrature scheme on the two brothers in order not to ruin his complex overall design: this hypothesis appears to be supported by the fake architecture of the vault, in the Juvarrian style.

Juvarra disappeared, the Messina artist’s idea of placing large sculptural groups of dogs and deer at the large windows of the hall was not completed any more so as not to excessively limit the splendid perspective view that can still be enjoyed by looking outside. On the other hand, the project was completed, entrusted to Giuseppe Morocco, of thirty-six wooden fans (appliques) with deer heads that show off on the walls of the room. Of the same period are the gilded wood inlays of the balustrade of the singers in the upper part of the hall and the chimney guards, painted by the Lombard Giovanni Crivelli (1733).

Also noteworthy are the four marble busts made in 1773 by Giovanni Battista Bernero, which dominate as many entrances to the hall and which represent minor deities linked to hunting and the fields: Ceres, Pomona, Naiade and Napea.

The hall, steeped in its structure and in the decorations of all that theatricality of eighteenth-century architecture, also attracted the attention of several contemporaries who were able to see it personally as the French engraver Charles Nicolas Cochin, custodian of the Cabinet of Drawings of the king of France in Versailles, who however criticized its overabundance of decorations and excessive eccentricity. Joseph Jerome Lalande remained the same, albeit admired, who reported that Juvarra had almost completely concentrated on the salon, leaving everything else in the background and revealing how it predisposed itself as the “dream of an architect”, too risky for a city palace and feasible only for a sumptuous country residence.

The Duke of Savoy Apartment
Also known as the Ponente Apartment (as opposed to the specular Levante Apartment), the set of rooms was enlarged under the direction of Benedetto Alfieri in the 18th century to accommodate the rooms of Vittorio Emanuele, Duke of Aosta and son of King Vittorio Amedeo III.

The apartment opens at the entrance with an atrium characterized by two statues representing Meleager and Atalanta respectively. The next two antechambers are characterized by a decoration of the second half of the XVIII century ascribable to the Cignaroli school with hunting and rural life scenes, tapestries and furniture in the Louis XIV and Louis XV style.

The two bedrooms of the Duke and Duchess of Aosta contain Louis XV and Louis XVI style furniture as well as other 18th-century Piedmontese furniture.

The garden of the palace and hunting lodge
In Stupinigi the garden of the hunting lodge and the surrounding hunting lodge are clearly distinguished: the complex, in fact, is inserted within a vast geometric garden, characterized by a continuous succession of flower beds, parterres and avenues, which can be in all respects considered the real garden of the palace. This park, bordered by a boundary wall and intersected by long avenues, was designed by the French gardener Michael Benard in 1740.

The hunting park, or estate, instead consisted of the vast area of almost 1,700 hectares which extended outside the fenced park and which had been expropriated by Duke Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia in 1563 to the Pallavicini. This area included land and woods included today in the municipalities of Nichelino, Orbassano and Candiolo.

The territory, which over the centuries remained with the rest of the building at the disposal of the hunts of the Savoy, in 1992 was placed under protection with the establishment of the Stupinigi natural park for the protection of the discreet fauna variety that populates it.

The zoo of Stupinigi
In Stupinigi the first ménagerie or zoological garden was built inside the palace in the year 1814, immediately after the Restoration. The animals at the disposal of the joy of the court, in fact, had initially been welcomed in the locality of Vicomanino, in a series of dependencies adapted to the purpose.

The animals were transferred from 18 March 1826, at the request of Count Giovan Battista Camillo Richelmy of Bovile, His Majesty’s great hunter, who asked that the animals present in the complex could be transferred to the left pavilion (current San Carlo building), in particularly to safeguard exotic animals from very different climates from the Piedmont one.

This ménagerie took care not only of feeding and raising animals for the pleasure of the court and for the zoological garden of the Savoy sovereigns, but also of supplying the game necessary for the hunts that were still kept regularly on the estate. There were about 2000 fallow deer in the hunting lodge.

It was again Count Richelmy, again in 1826, to take an interest in arranging the space needed to accommodate a large African elephant that the governor of Ottoman Egypt, Mehmet Ali, had given to Carlo Felice di Savoia. The following year, on June 4th, the animal (called Fritz) made its solemn entry into the Stupinigi estate, being entrusted to the care of his personal guardian, Stefano Novarino. The huge animal remained in place until November 3, 1847, when he killed the new 29-year-old guardian entrusted to him with a stroke of proboscis. The accident, together with the excessive costs for its maintenance (about 17,000 lire per year), eventually led to the suppression of the animal, which occurred on the evening of November 8, 1852 through asphyxiation, with fumes of carbonic acid that lasted for six hours consecutive. The elephant was 53 years old on his death. The meat of the animal was sold at a high price, while the skin was placed in the current Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of Turin.

Richelmy himself highlighted in his report how, among the species belonging to the royal ménagerie in Stupinigi, there was “a male jaguar from America, two female bears from Savoy, two male jackals from Africa, a cassowary, kangaroos, a wolf., some wild boars, many birds including an eagle and some vultures “.

Also in 1852, Vittorio Emanuele II, who was also one of the supporters of the recovery of Stupinigi as a hunting lodge, decreed the transfer of the remaining animals to the garden of the Royal Palace of Turin, including the horses used for the jokes.

In mass culture
Hunting lodge of Stupinigi in particular in Carlo Felice’s apartment from 22 May to 15 June 1987 hosted the painting exhibition of the Czechoslovak painter Jindra Husàrikovà
The exteriors of the Stupinigi hunting lodge hosted all the episodes of the 27th edition of the Games without frontiers (1996).
In February 2004, 27 objects were stolen from the museum (including some masterpieces by Piffetti, Bonzanigo and Prinotto) and four paintings, worth € 40 million. Fortunately, all the pieces were found in good condition on November 26, 2005, in a field near Villastellone.
The building hosted the filming of some scenes from the Mediaset Elisa fiction by Rivombrosa.
The qualification and elimination phase of the world archery championships 2011 took place inside the park of the building.
The building hosted the filming of the film War and Peace, The Bankers of God and the film Take my soul.
In June 2012 she was the set for the television version of Rossini ‘s Cinderella directed by Carlo Verdone.
In July 2016, it was the set of the film Ulysses – A dark odissey.
In 2018 the Savoy residence opens its doors to rock music and becomes the exclusive location of the Stupinigi Sonic Park (25 June / 11 July), a festival created to host excellent musical events and strengthen the presence in Italy of important locations in which to propose artists International. Top attraction of the 1st edition i Deep Purple.
In 2019, in the 2nd edition of the same festival, they performed the King Crimson of Robert Fripp, in Italy for the tour celebrating the 50 years of their career.