Theater of History, Royal Palace of Venaria

The display titled Theater of History, at the basement level, characterized by the fascinating spaces that once housed the court’s kitchen, storage and service rooms, illustrates significant historical facts, themes and events concerning the House of Savoy, from its mythological origins in the year 1000 to the early 19th century, when the main branch of the family went extinct.

The last rooms before climbing up to the Piano Nobile present the transformation that the Reggia underwent over time starting with Castellamonte’s project, with a particularly intriguing “story of unfinished ideas”, that illustrates the plans by Garove, Juvarra and Alfieri that never came into being.

La Venaria Reale is a “permanent cultural project” that offers a wealth of opportunities to learn, to feel new emotions and to make new experiences. La Venaria Reale is a grandiose estate just outside Turin. In comprises 80,000 square meters of floor surface in the Reggia and 60 hectares of Gardens, adjacent to the 17th century ancient village of Venaria and the 3,000 fenced hectares of the Park of La Mandria. It is a natural and architectural masterpiece that was declared part of the World Heritage by UNESCO in 1997. It reopened to the public in 2007 after completing the EU’s largest cultural restoration project to date.

The monumental palace or Reggia boasts some of the finest examples of universal Baroque: the elegant Hall of Diana designed by Amedeo di Castellamonte, the solemn Great Gallery and the Church of St. Hubert, the imposing complex of the Juvarra Stables designed by Filippo Juvarra in the 18th century, the sumptuous decorations and the spectacular Fountain of the Stag in the Court of Honor and the spectacular Fountain of the Stag in the Court of Honor provide a unique setting for the Theater of History and Magnificence, the permanent display – almost 2,000 m long – devoted to the House of Savoy, that spans from the basement level to the piano nobile of the Reggia.

At the mid-17th Century Duke Carlo Emanuele II of Savoy and Duchess Maria Giovanna Battista of Savoy Nemours decided to add one more jewel to the crown of stately houses dotting Turin’s surroundings. Court architect Amedeo di Castellamonte was thus appointed to design an estate for hunting and leisure. His grand project included the palace, the park, a hunting ground in the woods and a whole village. In addition to the palace, the Italian gardens and its sculptures, the estate would also comprise fountains, spectacular staircases and terraces on different levels – a Parco Alto that was level with the Palace and a Parco Basso that was level with the Peschiera. The plan was made unique by a single prospective view that ran into a straight line from the Borgo (village) to the heart of the Reggia, along the canal that linked the Fontana d’Ercole to the Tempio di Diana.

Starting in 1699, the architect Michelangelo Garove redesigned the whole complex of the Reggia into an even more imposing and magnificent estate, matching the ambitions of Vittorio Amedeo II. The Gardens were redesigned in the French style, with views opening out to infinity on a new scale as dictated by the taste of the greatest European court, Versailles. Meanwhile, the Duke became King and in 1716 he commissioned the enlargement of the estate to Filippo Juvarra. Juvarra’s Galleria Grande, the Cappella di sant’Uberto, the Citroniera and the Scuderia turned the Reggia into a baroque masterpiece in its own right. In 1739 Carlo Emanuele III instructed Benedetto Alfieri to connect the various sections of the estate through a system of galleries and spaces, including new stables and a covered riding ground. Life at the Reggia would continue under Vittorio Amedeo III and Carlo Emanuele IV, up until the decline of the Ancient Regime.

The Reggia was turned into a military barracks in the early 19th Century, following the arrival of Napoleon, when the King fled the estate and subsequently returned. The original layout of the Gardens was wiped out to make room for a military drill ground. Thus horses, cannons and muskets came to replace flowerbeds, fountains and sculptures. The park bustled with uniformed troops in the Wars of Independence and then later with Italian soldiers during World War I and II. When the military left, the Reggia fell prey to vandals who stripped it bare, taking away all reusable parts including doorframes and window panes. It was in this period of oblivion that the local community and the Authority for the Architectural Heritage put in place their best efforts to salvage the complex.

The restoration of the Reggia and the Gardens is part of the La Venaria Reale Project that also aims to revive the nearby ancient Village and the Park of La Mandria. The project by the Ministry for the Cultural Heritage and Regione Piemonte began in 1999 with the support of the European Union and the Ministry for the Economy, in collaboration with the Province of Turin, the Town of Venaria Reale and the Town of Turin. Frescoes, decorations and archaeological findings were brought back to light using cutting-edge restoration techniques. It was the largest project for the restoration of a cultural asset ever undertaken in Europe that revived a surface of 100,000 square meters, recovering 9,500 square meters of stuccowork and 1,000 square meters of frescoes. In the Gardens 50 hectares are now open to visitors and 100,000 new plants are in place, 11 million litres of waters fill the Peschiera with the addition of the 4,500 square meters surface of the Scuderie Juvarriane. This whole area in the vicinity of Turin has undergone a major renovation.

The inauguration on 12 October 2007 marked the rebirth of the Reggia and its Gardens. Architecture, history, landscape and modern artistic languages – like Peter Greenaway’s cinema and Giuseppe Penone’s sculptures – lift the curtain on a modern court that is home to a permanent display, major exhibitions, art performances, concerts, conferences, entertainment programs and events. Beauty, leisure and culture are finally back at the Reggia di Venaria.

Theater of History and Magnificence
The permanent display of the Reggia, titled Theater of History and Magnificence, is a journey through the history and the art of the House of Savoy that takes visitors on a 2,000-meter walk from the ground floor to the piano nobile of the Royal Palace. The visit begins in the imposing 17th century Hall of Diana and continues through the elegant Great Gallery to a music soundtrack composed by Brian Eno, the solemn Church of St. Hubert, the 18th century architectural masterpieces by Filippo Juvarra and their sumptuous stucco decorations, and Peopling the Palaces – a series of evocative multimedia installations by Peter Greenaway on court life.

In the destiny of Venaria there is a time for splendor and prosperity and a time for neglect, decline and the scattering of all its furnishings. The identity of this place is characterized first by a process of amassing, followed by subtraction. Over the past decade the restoration project retraced and recreated the ancient layout of the Gardens and revived the imposing spaces and the grand architecture of the Palace, while the artistic collection and the furnishings remain inexorably scant, denied by the events of history. The ancient paths to infinity and the unearthed ruins of the Gardens were reinstated with new plants and enriched by contemporary artworks: the extraordinary views of the Reggia and what remains of its original decorations were redesigned as a Theater of Magnificence to narrate ancient and modern tales and to experience the glorious past.

The display is a presentation of the dynasty that conceived and expanded the Reggia. Historical figures and members of the Court – created by the artistic genius of Peter Greenaway – will accompany the visitor also on the Piano Nobile, across the faithfully recreated 17th century rooms of the original hunting estate and the Palace of Kings, all the way to the ceremonial route of the18th century. In this way the visitors will be able to truly experience this ancient and extraordinary Palace as their own, in the best possible sense.

The King’s Paintings
In three elegant rooms of the 17th century Apartment of Princess Ludovica, next to the Hall of Diana, a display presents prestigious 16th and 17th century artworks on loan from the Galleria Sabauda of the Polo Reale of Turin.

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27 precious paintings by celebrated artists (from Guido Reni to Guercino, from Rubens to van Dyck, Brueghel the Elder and Brueghel the Younger) make up an elegant display that is a tribute to the superb “picture gallery” of the Reggia, the art collection of the sovereigns of Savoy.

The Fine Arts
From the permanent collection and deposits of the Picture Gallery of Turin’s Accademia Albertina, the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts.

The display provides a new and evocative setting for canvases and sculptures that illustrate four centuries of “artistic knowledge” (from the 16th to the 20th century) and also serves to underscore the importance of the learning process to acquire a variety of artistic skills through direct contact with masterpieces of the past.

The Atelier of The Arts, the new space on the upper floors of the Palace of Diana devoted to this exhibition, also boasts a very special guest star: the great master Paolo Veronese with two extraordinary paintings recently attributed to him that reflect the display’s key themes, namely Allegory with an armillary sphere, and Allegory of Sculpture.

The Royal Stables
Juvarra’s Stables, marking the end of the Reggia’s permanent display, are one of Venaria’s most imposing spaces and a superb example of European Baroque architecture.

The Stables are home to the splendid Bucentaur commissioned by Vittorio Amedeo II between 1729 and 1731 and crafted in Venice, the only remaining of its kind. Today it is presented in a brand new staging that incudes videos, lights and music, and the boat is “armed” in full with mast, oars and sails.

Also on show are some of the most sumptuous ceremonial carriages used by the House of Savoy in the early 19th century. These include the golden Berlin, on loan from Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome.

The Bucentaur and the Carriages are presented together as part of the activities hosted in the Royal Stables that concerned the travels of the Sovereign and his train.They make up a permanent display that is exceptional for the value of the pieces shown in a modern and extraordinarily powerful staging, and for the unique insights that they provide into the history of the Reggia, its territory and the Royal House that ruled over it and their times.

Royal Palace of Venaria
Reggia di Venaria Reale is a former royal residence and gardens located in Venaria Reale, near Turin in the Metropolitan City of Turin of the Piedmont region in northern Italy. With 80,000m² in palace area and over 950.000m² in premises, it is one the largest palaces in the world. It is one of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, included in the UNESCO Heritage List in 1997.

Restored to the baroque magnificence to which it was inspired in the mid-1600s by Duke Carlo Emanuele II of Savoy, the Reggia di Venaria is once again a symbol of modernity and culture. Since its opening in 2007, after two centuries of neglect and decay and eight intense years of restoration, La Venaria Reale has become one of Italy’s five most visited cultural sites.

The monumental palace is home to some of the finest examples of universal Baroque: the Hall of Diana designed by Amedeo di Castellamonte, the Great Gallery and the Church of St. Hubert, the grandiose complex of the Juvarra Stables designed by Filippo Juvarra in the 18th century, the sumptuous decorations and spectacular Fountain of the Stag in the Court of Honor are the ideal setting for the Theatre of History and Magnificence, the permanent display devoted to the House of Savoy that takes the visitor down a path that is almost 2,000 m long, from the basement level to the piano nobile of the Reggia.

Seen from above, the Reggia and the Gardens cover a surface of 950,000 square meters of unencumbered architecture and parkland. They lie at the heart of a vast estate that is made up of the Juvarra Stables (a 5,000 sq.m. exhibition centre in the Citroniera and the Great Stables); the Conservation and Restoration Center (housed in the former Alfieri Stables); the Old Town Center, the Borgo Castello and Cascina Rubbianetta (today home to the prestigious International Horse Center) set among the woods and castles that dot the 6,500 hectares of greenery in the nearby Park of La Mandria.

The Gardens appear today as a perfectly balanced combination of ancient and modern elements, in a boundless scenario where archaeological findings and contemporary artworks dialogue in harmony. A complex restoration project has led, over a period of eight years, to the reconstruction of the landscape and its historical landmarks that also took into account modern aesthetics and contemporary needs with important art works by the contemporary masters Giuseppe Penone and Giovanni Anselmo.