North Wing of the Noble Residential Floor, Valentino Castle

While the work for the expansion and architectural renovation of the residence was being carried out under the supervision of Carlo and Amedeo di Castellamonte, following the wish of Cristina of France, the decoration of the two first floor apartments on the Noble Residential Floor progressed. The apartments are identical both in number of rooms, both in their disposition, but different in decorative choice. The project wanted a sumptuous decoration using stucco-work and paintings accompanied by “corami” (leather works used like tapestries) on the walls. The works started with the central Great Salon and the apartment facing south, towards Moncalieri, formed by five rooms and a cabinet. The order is given to the family of plasterers and painters, coming from the Lake region, leaded by Isidoro Bianchi, who had already been regularly involved in other Savoy architectural projects such as Rivoli or the Ducal Palace. Bianchi works here assiduously with his sons Pompeo and Francesco between 1633 and 1642.

The main theme chosen for each room is represented by the fresco at the center of the ceiling, as the starting point, and then carried around to the stucco-work and frescos and even to the area just underneath the wall friezes. If the official apartment belonging to Cristina is strongly distinguished by the golden stucco-work and is the master piece of the Bianchi family, the rooms facing north, designated for the young prince Carlo Emanuele, are decorated at the beginning by the Bianchi, and later by other artists belonging to talented families coming from the Lake region, both painters and sculptors, such as the Casella and the Recchi (1633-1646).

The decoration of the apartments is well preserved, even if some rooms were re-decorated and modified during the eighteenth century; the general decorative programme and each episode were master-minded by Count Filippo di San Martino d’Aglié. The Count’s choice of style for the southern apartment rooms facing the Po was based on Ovidio’s poem.

The Hunt Room
The walls of this room were recovered with red and silver leather in 1644, and just one fresco makes up the decoration of the vaulted ceiling. It features Diana among the nymphs after the hunt and the words “BELLICA FACTA PARANT” are written on a scroll.

The rest of the ceiling is completely covered with Casella’s white stucco-work, which doesn’t limit itself to providing partitions with decorative elements of putti and festoons, but represents a processione of wild animals. The four major wall paintings are then dedicated to these same animals during the hunt – firstly to the hunt of the fawn, then the bear, then the wild pig and lastly the stag. Alongside these fresco scenes painted by Recchi, other minor scenes on the wall freizes shows putti busy in the ac-companying tasks of the hunt. Here Recchi and his team seem to treat their subjects more realistically, like in the ‘Where Flowers Are Born” room where the putti are usefully distilling floral essences. In this case too, they are inside a space covered by a caisson ceiling although this is rather theatrical as each of the scenes is flanked by veils.

The Celebration and Pomps Room
Gian Paolo Recchi and his team started painting the frescos in this room in 1665, from subjects provided by Filippo d’Aglié, who continued to run the Valentino even after the death of Madama Reale in 1663. In 1665, once the foreman Baguto had put up the scaffolding, Recchi received an advance payment of 300 lire for the paintings ‘to be done in the celebrations and Pomps Room at the Valentino’ and so appointed a plasterer to prepare the walls for painting.

It is no coincidence this room was decorated after the death of Maria Cristina because the large central circular panel in the ceiling shows Her Magnificence the Sovreign, to whom the arts and sciences give eternal fame. As the writing explains: “LUCE MANSURA PER AEVUM” which crowns, the feminine figure, victoriously winged and holding the sceptre which commands, triumphantly in the centre of the panel she is being offered the statue of a young man, which is the symbol of sculpture but which also represents sovreign Genius. The presence in the background of a pyramid reconfirms their belief in the eternity of fame, as Cesare Ripa explains in his Iconografia: It is a worthy attribute to the splendour of princes who build magnificent and sumptuous palaces as eternal wit-nesses to their glory”.

D’Aglié reconfirms this in his “Delizie” where he praises Maria Cristina’s sovreign Genius: “Madama Reale belonging to an illustrions family reflects her divine genius through her ideas, as if in a mirror. This Genius guides, teaches and advises on every aspect of moral and human life, and illuminates the higher intellects with its action. The Genius symbolises the guardian. Madama Reale was the state’s Regent as her son’s tutor. The Elei adored their Genius, Sosiopoli whose name means “Saviour of the People”. Madame Reale is praised as the Saviour of the state, especially during the Civil wars. Ceremonies were dedicated to the Genius of Augustus”.

It is exactly this sentence which explains the link between the decoration of the circular panel and the other frescos which decorate the vault and the rectangular plaques in the freize at the end of the walls. The only plaque which is still intact enough for us to understand is on the west side and shows a public feast in space prepared deliberately for the purpose in front of Palazzo Madama. This facade is dominated by a central ‘Serliana’ window and framed by towers and is comparable to that depicted in the fresco in the salon of Valentino. This fresco shows Carlo VIII’s entry into Turin.

The white stucco-work is dominant in this room too, as it moves uninhibited around the room and oblivious to any architectural obstacles, over the swollen cornice, it almost becomes a garland wrapped up in fruit which frames the central space of the ceiling. The telamoni and putti which join the oval panels and almost completely cover the ceiling, are accompanied by groups of putti supporting the palm leaf the symbol of triumph, in the border of the walls. the different style of stucco works documents the employment of another craftsman in this work: in 1664, payments were registered as “doubles 100 … to the plasterer Corbellino for the stucco-work in the Festivals Room including to the doors he did at the Valentino”. This reference was to Giovanni Luca Corbellino, the same craftsman who had modelled the stucco-work in the columned room.

The Room of the Magnificence
The stucco-work in this room was done by Alessandro Casella. The apparent stillness of the decoration around the large central painting and the series of twelve scenes on the vault, is counter-balanced by the vivacious group of stucco putti holding up caryatids (statues of women). The highest border on the walls is brought to life by the ‘metamorphic qualities’ of the lateral volutes in the form of satir head.

The power of the sovreign is the subject of the central painting seen through his liberal activities in patronizing the royal buildings: this very buildings, drawn as a project on a cartouche, are indicated by the sceptre of the sovreing as if already completed.

In the paintings underneath we see featured, before the Theatrum Sabaudiae in 1682, several stately buildings and urban scenes which reflect the purchases made by Carlo Emanuele I or Vittorio Amedeo and Cristina. We can recognise il Palazzo Ducale and Piazza Castello, the Vitozzi church S. Maria al Monte dei Cappuccini and the project by Vittorio Amedeo I for a new palace in the city adjacent to the Dome and for use by the prince heir to the throne. The late sixteenth century suburban residence at Mirafiori seen from the garden is the next subject on the west wall. The new duke had started plans to extend it, but these were interrupted with his death in 1637.

The next subject was the Via Po before its reconstrution into omogeneous arcades by Amedeo of Castellamonte, dominated by the Church of the Minimi Fathers of San Francesco da Paola was set up by Cristina di Francia in 1632. The last painting represents the eminent Porta Nuova complex, build by Carlo di Castellamonte in 1620 at the extreme end of south extension of Turin. Apart from city scenes, there were also territorial landscapes, showing works by the Duke intended to protect religious orders both in churches and in isolated mountain retreats and scenes on the duke’s initiative to fortify cities in the low-lands; recognisable are Trino with its quadrangle citadel; Asti with its double city walls and, probably, Villanova d’Asti.

In the paintings which make up the final border on the walls the scenes depicts, landscapes. The doors to this room boast two spiral columns which frame them and support a fastigium with corbels and putti which are around a circular frame and mirror.

The Negotiation Room
The stucco-work decoration of this room was carried out by Casella who was paid in 1648. His style is recognisable due to the rich design of telamons (or imposing statues of virile men), putti, angels with plant-like tails, who, in close pairs show the way round the walls to the central painting on the ceiling. The stucco-work on the ceilings of this apartment is very similar to the workmanship on the doors.

The sides of the doorframe are enriched with statuettes holding festoons of flowers and fruit, and above the door there is a border with vegetal-limbed putti on both sides of a frame which was probably designed to hold a portrait of a sovreign.

The fresco in the central panel of the room painted by Recchi is of Peace as the foundation for public happiness, and consists of a series of allegorical figures. Peace, consolidate by well contrived alliances and treatises, including matrimonial ones, even dominates the picture underneath which feature the Savoy family’s relationship with the most prestigious European sovreigns, including the Kings and Queens of France, Spain and England and even oriental Sultans and the Emperor of Asburgh. This multeplicity of relationships justifies the different styles of dress and scenery, but it has yet to be understood completely.

The War Room
This room was already endowed with a brocade tapestry in 1644 and was probably the last room to be decorated by the Bianchis and their team, as we know Pompeo and Francesco were paid in 1645/46 for their stucco work on the ceiling. From this point on the stucco-work became more important in the Valentino apartments than had previously been the case, connecting iconographicaly precisely to the subject matter.

The general frameworks on the ceiling of the War Room are similar to those in the previous rooms as, for example, the four-cornered cornice and corbels decorated, alternately, with roses and framed Fleur-de-lis; the separating border defined by egg moulding above pairs of corbels on acanthus leaves; and lastly the lobed frames of the fresco paintings. What seems decidedly new is the plastic exhuberance of the pair of putti joyously holding up war emblems above the fresco paintings featuring the military feats of Vittorio frames I.

The stucco-work of the frames around the great paintings is very lively with military symbols like shields, helmets and panoplies (suits of armour). The theme of this room is closely linked to the celebration of Vittorio Amedeo I, who the central octagonal plaque addresses: “VICTORIS VICTOR! VICTORIA”. It is also possible to find a more general reference to the military virtue which a prince should aspire to, especially as Carlo Emanuele II was approaching age the was fourteen on 20 June 1648). This apartment was destined for the young heir to the throne and the stucco in these rooms described the typical life style of a prince: hunting, ceremonies and political activity.

In each of the rooms in this apartment there is an abundance of white stucco-work which indicates a approach to design, very different from that of the Bianchis. The style is Alessandro Casella’ s as he was probably working autonomously here at the time. This white stucco-work could emphasise and subordinate or isolate, the individual events of the fresco paintings. The frescos, in fact, were completed altogether, at a later date, by Gian Paolo and Giovanni Antonio Recchi, leading members of a skilled crew from Lugano and employed at the Valentino from 1662.

The War Room features the ‘Vittoria incoronata dalla Fama’ (Fame crowning Victory) in the central painting, while the Genius of History writes about his heroic fests on a large shield. It is possible to recognise glowing praise shown to Vittorio Amedeo I by the presence of his coat-of-arms, the Bird of Paradise, and the four paintings on the lower parts of the wall showing his military feats. Thanks to the analogy with some scenes shown in the Cathedral of Turin, during the funeral procession of the Duke, which had been copied in engravings by Giovenale Boetto, you can identify events that occurred during the War of Monferrato, such as The Siege of Crevalcore and The Conquest of Bestagno.

Alessandro Casella designed the doors in this room, with portraits of Vittorio Amedeo I and Cristina of France above them, and which Vico had already noted, but have only reappeared now after recent restorations.

Valentino Castle
The Castle of Valentino is an historic building in Turin, is located in Valentino Park on the banks of the Po. Today it is owned by the Polytechnic of Turin and hosts degree courses (three-year and master’s) in Architecture.

In the nineteenth century the castle underwent significant interventions that distort the seventeenth-century pavilion-system structure. In 1858 the castellamontian porticoes connecting the pavilions, one storey high above ground, were demolished and the two-storey galleries were built to a design by Domenico Ferri and Luigi Tonta. Starting from 1850-51, the expansion of the city to the south was planned (today’s San Salvario district ) and very soon the Valentino castle, from an extra-urban building, was urbanized.

The Valentino Castle has been included in the List of the UNESCO World Heritage since 1997, as well in the sito seriale «Le Residenze sabaude» (The Savoy residences), as property of the Politecnico di Torino, founded by the union of the Scuola di applicazione with the Regio Museo Industriale (Royal Industrial Museum) in 1906, and main seat of the Architecture Departments.

Subject of recent restoration, the Castle is regaining its ancient splendor. The rooms on the first floor have been gradually reopened and house the offices of the management of the Architecture and Design department of the Politecnico di Torino. On 12 May 2007 the splendid room of the Zodiac reopened, with its central fresco which mythologically depicts the river Po with the features of Poseidon.