National Museum of the Italian Unification, Carignano Palace, Turin, Italy

Carignano Palace, full name Palazzo dei Principi di Carignano, is a historic building in the city center of Turin, a fine example of Piedmontese Baroque architecture. Palazzo Carignano, which houses the Museum of the Risorgimento, was a private residence of the Princes of Carignano, after whom it is named. Its rounded façade is different from other façades of the same structure.

Together with Palazzo Reale and Palazzo Madama it is part of the most important historical buildings of the city and, like these, it is part of the UNESCO Residenze Sabaude serial site. It was the historic seat of the Subalpine Parliament (1848 – 1861) and of the first Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy (1861 – 1864).

It currently houses the seventeenth-eighteenth-century apartments of Mezzanotte and Mezzogiorno on the ground floor (known as the Apartment of the Principi), while on the main floor the National Museum of the Italian Unification, closed for a period of about three years for a demanding restoration and reorganization and reopened on March 18, 2011, on the occasion of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, “.

The complex was built by order of Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia-Carignano, known as “il Muto”, who commissioned the work to the architect Guarino Guarini. The works began in 1679, under the direction of the collaborator Gian Francesco Baroncelli. First provisional and, since 1694, stable residence of the Princes of Carignano, the future kings Carlo Alberto and Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy were born in this palace.

The construction of the Palazzo Carignano was ordered by Prince Emmanuel Philibert, son of Thomas Francis, Prince of Carignano and his French wife Marie de Bourbon. The Prince commissioned architect Guarino Guarini to design a suitable residence for his home and the cadet house of the reigning House of Savoy.

Guarini designed the structure in the shape of a square, with a straight and restrained east façade and an elliptical façade on the west. Guarini also added a forecourt at the center of the palace. Construction began in 1679, when the Prince was 51 years old.

The decorations over the windows of the piano nobile recall the campaign of the Carignano family with Carignan-Salières Regiment against the Iroquois in 1667. The interior has always been described as lavish and has splendid frescoes and stucco decorations.

Among the frescoes are some by Stefano Legnani, called il Legnanino. The main stairwell is decorated with busts by Pietro Somazzi.

The building, constructed in brick in a typical Baroque style, has an elliptical main façade. This façade represents the only example of civic architecture making use of the undulating ‘concave – convex – concave’ rhythm established by Francesco Borromini in the church of S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane in Rome.

The Palazzo was the birthplace of Marie-Louise, princesse de Lamballe in 1749 – confidant of Marie Antoinette and for whom she died in 1792. Charles Emmanuel, Prince of Carignano was born there in 1770. It was also the birthplace of the first King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II in 1820.

In 1831, with the accession to the throne of Carlo Alberto, the building was ceded to the State Property, which housed the Council of State and the Post Office.

When, in 1848, the building was used as the seat of the Chamber of Deputies of the Subalpine Parliament, the architect Carlo Sada modified the splendid ballroom inside the elliptical body.

In 1861, with the opening of the first Italian Parliament, the hall was too small and for this reason work was begun to build a larger one with the expansion of the building towards Piazza Carlo Alberto, whose project was entrusted to the architect Domenico Ferri and Giuseppe Bollati: the works began in 1863 and ended in 1871, while the deputies in the meantime gathered in a larger and more provisional classroom built in the courtyard to a design by the architect Amedeo Peyron, until the transfer of the capital to Florence in 1864. The large hall, intended to house the new Italian Parliament, was therefore never used for the purpose for which it was built.

In 1898 the hall of the Subalpine Parliament was declared a national monument.
It was in this palace that two memorable events took place:
the reading of the proclamation in which the Prince regent on behalf of Carlo Felice, Carlo Alberto di Savoia-Carignano, granted the Statute
the session in which the King of Sardinia and Duke of Savoy, Vittorio Emanuele II, proclaimed the birth of the Kingdom of Italy.

Subsequently the palace housed numerous cultural institutes and associations. After a long restoration, between 1988 and 2011, the building houses the Regional Directorate of Piedmont Museums, the Apartments of Mezzanotte and Mezzogiono and the National Museum of the Italian Unification.

The building overlooks the square of the same name and with the side facade of the Palazzo dell’Accademia delle Scienze and the imposing rear of the church of San Filippo Neri creates an architectural unicum of extraordinary value.

Guarini designed a splendid building that represents one of the most important works of the Piedmontese Baroque, with a U-shaped plan and a singular architectural structure: an elliptical tower is slightly set back in the facade and two side wings unfold to form a square courtyard completely surrounded by the body factory.

In the monumental main façade, the ellipse is distinguishable because it makes space sinuously, making a magnificent effect, since the façade alternates concave sections with convex parts, in a configuration perhaps attributable to Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s projects for the Louvre palace and the Castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte. From the internal courtyard, however, the elliptical body stands out between the side wings, exceeding them in height.

The model of the building is also to be found in Borromini ‘s Oratorio dei Filippini, also referred to in the use of exposed brick. Bricks perfectly smoothed and grouted with terracotta dust mortar become like plastic and moldable material. The decorations on the façade of the main floor, also in terracotta, show references to the adventures and exploits of the Carignano family, including the victory in Canada accomplished alongside the French in 1667 against the native Iroquois, with the Carignan-Salières regiment. The large decorative frieze on the main facade bearing the inscriptionQVI NACQVE VITTORIO EMANVELE II was added in1884byCarlo Ceppi, respecting the baroque style with exposed brick.

Many interiors are beautifully frescoed and decorated with stucco. Some frescoes are by Stefano Legnani known as “il Legnanino”.

Rear facade
During the extension works carried out between 1864 and 1871 the rear facade was built, based on a project by Domenico Ferri, Giuseppe Bollati and in an eclectic pseudo-Renaissance style, with white stone and pink stucco enriched with sumptuous pilasters and columns, portico on the ground floor and surmounted by a balustrade on the top raised in the center. It was the internal facade of the building at the time it was the Savoy residence. Overlooking the internal garden, which today is Piazza Carlo Alberto, the palace was connected by surrounding walls to the opposite structure of the stables, now home to the National Library.

National Museum of the Italian Unification
The National Museum of the Italian Unification is the largest exhibition space of Italian homeland history, the oldest and the most important museum dedicated to the Italian Unification due to the richness and representativeness of its collections and the only one that officially has the title of “national”, recognition obtained thanks to Royal Decree No. 360 of 8 December 1901. Founded in 1878, it is located in Turin inside the historic Palazzo Carignano.

It is dedicated to the Unification period, during which the political unification of Italy took place. The finds exhibited in the museum, which are attributable to a wider historical period, can be dated between 1706 (year of the siege of Turin) and 1946 (birth of the Italian Republic) with particular attention, as already mentioned, to relics from the Unification, which instead are linked to a period of time between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the First World War. The collections are kept inside the noble floor of the building.

The National Museum of the Italian Unification has been profoundly renovated, and presents itself to visitors with cutting-edge facilities and services, from Palazzo Carignano which houses it to the rooms that house the collections. The lighting, the colors of the rooms, the choice of which was made on the basis of chromatic codes that can always be traced back to the topics covered, and the use of multimedia contributions ensure the visitor a unique experience of its kind.

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The Unification period is now narrated in a European key as well as in Turin, Piedmont and Italy. The rooms are enriched by films made with images from the most important European collections and visible on large screens, as well as large interactive tables allow visitors to further explore the themes developed by the films.

The museum, which was founded in 1878 to celebrate the death of the first king of united Italy, was born with the name of “National Remembrance of Vittorio Emanuele II ” . After some provisional and temporary installations, including that of 1884 within the Italian General Exposition in Turin and that of 1899 within the Civic Museum of Turin, it had its first permanent seat in 1908 in the Mole Antonelliana, where the October 18 of the year mentioned .

After having undergone a temporary transfer again in 1930 inside the Palazzo del Giornale, which is located in the Valentino park, in 1938 he finally arrived at Palazzo Carignano, the Baroque building of Guarino Guarini where it had previously been based, since 1848 to 1860, the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Sardinia (also known as the “Subalpine Parliament”) and from 1861 to 1865 the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy.

The latter was housed in a temporary classroom in the courtyard, which was then dismantled, pending the end of the works for the doubling of the building and for the construction of a large classroom that was to house the deputies of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy. Once the works, which were carried out between 1864 and 1871, the grandiose classroom, the last of the museum visit itinerary, no longer served its purpose and therefore was never used, given that the capital and parliament had already left Turin for be transferred to Florence .

Inside the museum it is therefore possible to visit two parliamentary halls: that of the Chamber of Deputies of the Subalpine Parliament, active from 1848 to 1860, still intact today and with the original furniture as it was in 1860 when it ceased to function, including the original benches occupied at the time by the most important parliamentarians (Cavour, Massimo d’Azeglio, Cesare Balbo, Vincenzo Gioberti and Giuseppe Garibaldi) which are now distinguished by tricolor cockades, and that of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament, never used for that function but today an ideal venue for hosting the museum’s temporary exhibitions and cultural events.

The exhibitions were updated in 1948 on the occasion of the centenary of the first war of independence and in 1961 during the celebrations of the hundredth anniversary of the unification of Italy. This latest expansion of the collections was then downsized in 1965.

Immediately after the 2006 Turin Olympics the museum was closed to allow the restoration and rearrangement of the exhibition part. The reopening took place solemnly on March 18, 2011 on the occasion of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy in the presence of the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano.

The exhibitions
The typology of the exhibits is very varied: weapons, banners, uniforms, printed documents and manuscripts, and figurative works. The place of honor is certainly represented by the Chamber of Deputies of the Subalpine Parliament, a national monument since 1898 and the only original example in the world of the parliamentary halls established after the revolutions of 1848.

The 2,579 exhibits on display to the public, which were selected from the 53,011 belonging to the museum, describe the path that led to the unification of Italy. There are also references to other European nations that acquired independence in the 19th century by experiencing a season comparable to that of the Italian Unification. Exhibitions for the disabled are planned for the blind, the visually impaired and the hearing impaired .

The exhibition occupies approximately 3,500 m² spread over 30 rooms: the first three narrate the exhibitions of the past in a national key (1878, 1961), from a Piedmontese and Turin point of view (1898, 1908, 1911) and in a fascist key (1935), 1938), to illustrate the different interpretations that the Unification had in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

From the fourth room onwards the actual exhibition begins: it starts from the French Revolution (1789) passing through the Napoleonic age (1796-1815), the Restoration (1814), the uprisings of 1820-1821, the revolts of 1830 -1831, the revolutions of 1848, the Italian wars of independence (1848, 1859 and 1866), the expedition of the Thousand (1860), up to the exhibition of finds related to the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy (1861) and to the capture of Rome (1870), which are treated in room 24, the last of this itinerary. Room 25 reconstructs Cavour’s original ministerial study .

Rooms 26, 27 and 28 are dedicated to various aspects (politics, culture, society, religiosity, education, workers’ rights and trade union struggles, armed forces) of the first fifty years of the Kingdom of Italy, seen through the eyes of the bourgeoisie and popular classes. Room 29, on the other hand, tells the story of the early years of the twentieth century up to the threshold of the First World War, a conflict which then led to the completion of national unity with the annexation of Trentino, Alto Adige and Venezia Giulia to Italy.

Room 30 is obtained from the large hall that should have housed the never used Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy. In this hall, which is used for the museum’s temporary exhibitions and cultural events, large paintings are exhibited representing the Italian military history from 1848 to 1860, which is told both by the events linked to the official army and by the events connected to the epic of the Garibaldian volunteers. The collection of the museum is completed by the 167,750 volumes of the library, which is located on the fourth floor of the building. The library archive also includes 1,916 periodicals of the time, 15,000 original posters and prints, 120,000 documents and a large photographic collection.

The idea of a Library, specialized in the history of the Unification period, was born with the foundation deed of the Museum in 1878. The collection of works, which began with its establishment, has gradually increased over the course of almost one hundred and forty years, through targeted purchases and a large number of donations. The newspaper library is of exceptional interest, one of the most important in Italy for periodicals, newspapers, single issues of the 19th century.

Historical Archives
The Historical Archives represent a documentary complex of important interest, the main corpus of which is between the XVIII-XIX centuries, with documents dating back to the XIII-XV centuries and extending to the period of the First and Second World Wars and the Resistance. Alongside real collections of politicians, soldiers, patriots, families and institutions, collections of manuscripts, correspondence, memoirs, documents of sovereigns, heads of state, members of the aristocracy and the European bourgeoisie are preserved.

Iconographic cabinet
The huge patrimony of the Museum is preserved in the Iconographic Cabinet. Among the materials, of different types, whose main core is between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there are those dating back to the sixteenth and extending up to the twentieth. In particular, the collections of iconographic prints, geographical maps and postcards are included; collections of historical photography and posters.

Italian Unification 150 Anniversary Exhibition: The Unification is here!
It is an exhibition divided into 5 itineraries, to discover Turin in the decisive 50 years for the history of our country: from 1814, with the return of Vittorio Emanuele I on the throne of the Savoy kingdom, until 1861 with the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, and the transfer of the capital from Turin to Florence in 1864. Places, events and characters are illustrated with both period and current images, to reconstruct the historical fabric and the salient episodes that have affected the centers of political and religious power in the city.

The historic buildings tell their own history and the events of which they were the theater; the monuments and commemorative plaques make known the protagonists of the restoration, of the secret societies, of the riots of 1821, of the revolutions of ’48 and of the technological innovations that led to the creation of a modern unitary state.

The command posts
In the central area of the city – piazza Castello and piazza Carignano – the historic heart of Turin, the government buildings are enclosed (Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Madama with the Senate Hall and Palazzo Carignano with the Parliament, the royal secretariats seat of ministries and government offices), the monuments depicting the Standard Bearer of the Sardinian Army and the Knight of Italy, the tombstones that recall crucial moments in the history of our country, such as the First War of Independence or emblematic characters such as Federico Sclopis, Luigi Des Ambrois and Antonio Benedetto Carpano. It is a short but very intense itinerary of suggestions, which immerses the visitor in the environments of the Savoy court and in the memories it contains.

Riots and conspiracies
The arcades of the ancient Via Po still preserve the places of the conspiracies and revolutionary uprisings of the Unification: the riots of 1821 in the courtyard of the University rectorate, the conspiracies in the muffled rooms of the Fiorio coffee, also called “dei codini”, as many conservative nobles who wore the typical wig with the “tail”. The itinerary also reaches the plaque commemorating where Goffredo Mameli first played the hymn of the Italians or the symbol of Turin: the Mole Antonelliana, designed as a synagogue and used instead as the first seat of the Unification Museum, reaching – after crossing piazza Vittorio and the stone bridge – to the Gran Madre di Dio and to Villa della Regina, then the seat of the National Institute of the daughters of the Italian military.

The spirit of the modernization of the unitary state can be identified in the itinerary that connects the monuments of the characters of the Italian Unification, such as Giuseppe Garibaldi and Massimo d’Azeglio, to the obelisk in memory of the 1855 expedition to the Crimea – a strategic episode in Cavour’s foreign policy – to the symbolic places of the Carmelite religious emancipation of 1848, such as the Waldensian Temple, to the Porta Nuova station – the ancient landing stage of Genoa – which made Piedmont the pre-unification kingdom with the greatest railway extension. The memory given by the Park of Italy ’61 in the centenary of the unification of Italy and the column that commemorates the anniversary, symbolize a fundamental passage in the history of the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy.

The Fathers of the Fatherland
A path in the central area of the city – built on the remains of the ancient walls and bastions destroyed by Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century and today pleasant gardens and tree-lined squares – which touches the palaces and monuments of the great statesmen, Fathers of the Fatherland, such as Gioberti, Cavour, Mazzini and Manin, together with tombstones commemorating heroes and intellectuals such as Pietro Fortunato Calvi and Lajos Kossuth, Giuditta Sidoli and Roberto d’Azeglio, and events such as the riots in Piazza San Carlo for the transfer of the capital from Turin to Florence in 1864. The nineteenth-century city can be read in a succession of countless stages, which alternate austere noble palaces – the Collegio dei Nobili, Palazzo Cavour, Palazzo d’Azeglio, and the Academy of Fine Arts – with monuments and tombstones in memory of those who dedicated the life to the realization of the unification of Italy.

Vittorio Emanuele II
From the historic heart of Turin, the seat of the command of the Savoy kingdom, then of Italy, you can “visit” the plaque commemorating where Michele Novaro set to music the song composed by Goffredo Mameli and which became the national anthem in 1946, the Palazzo di Città headquarters of the town hall, the square that recalls the name of the Statute of 1848 granted by Carlo Alberto together with the monument that celebrates the Frejus railway tunnel inaugurated in 1871 and the contiguous Porta Susa station, terminus of the railway from Novara. The ancient Keep of the Citadel, which recalls the Carbonari Moti of 1821, overlooks the avenue leading to the highest monument in the city, the one dedicated to the first King of Italy. Placed on four imposing Doric columns, Vittorio Emanuele II seems to walk on the roofs of the surrounding buildings, floating on the tree-lined boulevard that takes his name.

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