The Round Cabinet is a small and precious space, created inside the north-west Roman tower, is a key point of the apartment set up in the middle of the century for the first Royal Madame of Savoy, Maria Cristina di France. The dense selection of portraits of the Savoy and the most important court figures is exposed on the walls, which tell us about the fashions and faces of the past.
Next to The Round Cabinet is the Room of Flowers, the name of this room in the palace derives from the decorations made in 1688-1689 by the flower painters Agostino Belleudi and Salvatore Bianco, now lost but remembered in the documents. Subsequent interventions also concealed the frieze painted with cherubs, cartouches, scrolls and vegetable scrolls, re-emerged during the renovations of 2005. The room is now set up with modern windows that host a selection of micro-carving works and the collection of miniature portraits donated to the museum by the Bruni Tedeschi family.
Miniature Portrait Collection
Behind each face there is a story and many small curiosities of the time. The miniature has always had a double symbolic value: celebratory, glorification of a dynasty or an aristocratic family, or affective, intimate gift between people who love each other. This type of object reached the peak of its diffusion in the seventeenth century during the reign of Louis XIV of France, when even the back of the miniature was embellished with love messages and decorations with locks of loved one’s hair, arranged according to articulated decorative geometries. The portrait was not only an expression of loving understanding, but also of motherhood, mourning, and many other feelings: one example is the nineteenth-century fashion of the lover’s eye, illuminated portraits of one ‘s lover’s eye, promise of eternal loyalty and love.
In the current digital age, the portrait has not disappeared but rather has been enriched with a strong sociological meaning. Today the photographic portrait, the selfie, is an instrument of expression of one’s personality. As in the time of Marie Antoinette, self-representation is an affirmation of one’s individuality and our history, of a present that becomes eternal.
The miniature stands out for its small proportions, for particular techniques and materials, specifically designed to achieve the greatest effectiveness on small formats. The term derives from MINIUM, a rare mineral from which the red color used in the decorative images and in the initial letters of the chapters of manuscripts was obtained. The first miniature portraits date back to the 16th century, at the court of France and England, where King Henry VIII he was immortalized in small precision masterpieces. The genre spread from the eighteenth century creating several schools in Europe. In 1839 the birth of the daguerreotype, the first photographic tool for the production of images, was a real success with the public and led many miniaturists to convert to the art of photography, decreeing the inevitable decline of the miniature portrait.
Most of the miniatures in the collections of Palazzo Madama come from the collection of Alberto Bruni Tedeschi, industrial entrepreneur and fine composer, one of the leading personalities of the Italian ‘900. He distinguished himself as a highly sensitive collector: in 2005 the family donated his collection of 130 miniatures to Palazzo Madama, which traces the history of the small portrait in Europe from the third quarter of the eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, through an overview of intimate and familiar subjects alongside which portraits of the ruling families and great politicians, soldiers, writers, artists, doctors and scientists wind. The main European schools are represented:Jean-Baptiste-Jacques Augustin and Jean-Baptiste Isabey for France, George Engleheart, Andrew Plimer and Charles William Ross for England, Moritz Michael Daffinger for Austria, Augustin Ritt for Russia, Giambattista Gigola for Italy. From the words of Bruni Tedeschi: The glory of the little one is the most difficult joy, because it is necessary to have a big eye.
Miniature portraiture sees two fundamental schools stand out, the English and French schools. The English school, distinguished by simple lines painted in gouache on parchment or cardboard, saw very few women represented in the Tudor period (16th century), while in the Stuart period (late 16th – 17th century) the female portrait dominated. In the period called the Royal Academy (second XVIII early XIX), the watercolor over ivory triumphs.
French portraiture developed during the reign of Louis XV with a particular taste for allegorical and mythological scenes. The arrival in Paris of Rosalba Carriera, an excellent Venetian miniaturist, marks on the one hand the use of an unusual but highly appreciated pictorial material such as ivory, on the other the fashion of the intimate portrait.
Techniques and Materials
The support material for the miniatures is very varied, as are the techniques used. In the Palazzo Madama collection there are examples of watercolor painting on parchment, of gouache on treated cardboard, enamel on ceramic, up to the most widespread and bright painting on ivory. The frames are also in different materials, from gilded bronze to carved wood. A particular curiosity is enclosed on the back of some miniatures: embroidery and complex weaves of hair of the person portrayed evoke memories of affections and passions related to small portraits.
Women Portrait Collection
Portrait of a woman (about 1825), by English School
«In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you» – “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
Presumed portrait of Carolina Bonaparte (about 1800), by Louis-Léopold Boilly
Portrait of a young woman (about 1840), by Alois Von Anreiter
Fashion: back to the future
During Napoleonic Empire, fashion changes developing a taste for a natural style without artifices. Enough corset and panier, clothes are simple tunics inspired by the classic style, long to the ankle and tight under the breast.
Portrait of a young lady (about 1810), by Fanny Charrin
Ribbons and jewels
The use of wigs ended after French Revolution. In fact, hairstyle for ladies and gentlemen was simple and wild. During Napoleonic Empire, women hairstyle, kwon as neoclassic, was inspired by the Ancient Greece. Hair was simply braided with ribbons and enriched with jewels or tiaras.
Young lady at the toilet (about 1810), by Fanny Charrin
Queen Marie Thérèse of Naples (about 1837), by Moritz Michael Daffinger
Portrait of a woman (1834), by Simon-Jacques Rochard
Portrait of a woman (1825), by Henry Collen
Portrait of Lady G. R. Smith (1831), by Thomas George
Portrait of a woman (about 1830), by Madeleine Pauline Ducruet
Bruni Tedeschi Collection
Myths and legends
From XVIII century in France, as in Europe too, an enthusiasm for allegoric scenes and mythological figures spreads, a phenomenon known as miniature gender. Society wants to evade reality in favor of dreamy and fairy subjects
Allegorical scene of Pygmalion (1793)
Click of Power
Because of the high artistic quality, miniature portrait is an instrument of success and recognition for powerful people and artists who want leaving a mark. From Marie Antoinette to Vittorio Alfieri, the key-word is power
Queen Marie-Antoinette (1776)
Lady Elisabeth of France (about 1785)
King Louis XVI (1784)
Camillo Benso, count of Cavour (1873)
Emperor Napoleon (about 1810)
The poet Vittorio Alfieri (about 1800)
«Sublime mirror of true sayings, show me in body and soul what they are» – Poem “My portrait” by Vittorio Alfieri
Portrait of prince Eugenio of Savoia-Carignano (about 1725)
From XVIII century, the portrait is also a statement of love feelings, which create an emotional relationship between the donor and the recipient. On the one side the face of the beloved, on the other not only messages of love but also hair strands arranged along precious and complex structures.
Miniature portrait was an intimate present as a reminder of love and devotion. Often, it decorated bracelets, lockets or pins fixed on ties and ribbons
«I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you..[…] My Love is selfish – I cannot breathe without you.» John Keats
Wars were the reason of lovers separation. Because of this, it was important to have an object as a reminder of the beloved and of reasons of his absence, through metaphorical symbols.
Portrait of a young woman (about 1785)
Sir John Sinclair (about 1792)
Portrait of a young lady (about 1795)
Portrait of count Silvestro Mazé of Mombello (1798)
Portrait of a man (about 1795 )
Portrait of a woman (1806)
A handcherkief, a spilled jar, a meaningful date( maybe the departure one)…all symbols of two separeted lovers. On the background, a statue which symbolizes a woman sitting on an anchor as a proof of wait.
The Age of Innocence
In the nineteenth century, miniature portrait is expression of a wide range of feelings, not only love but also maternity and filial love
Lady Anne Beechey with her baby Anne (1800)
Portraits of Edward Long twin sons (1771)
Portrait of Adeline and Charles Leigneux of Anhalt (1804)
Leslie Ward and Her Sister (1854)
Portrait of a young girl (about 1845)
Portrait of a boy (about 1800)
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.