woensdag 1 februari 2012

Italy, Residences of the Royal House of Savoy

When Emmanuel-Philibert, Duke of Savoy, moved his capital to Turin in 1562, he began a vast series of building projects (continued by his successors) to demonstrate the power of the ruling house. This outstanding complex of buildings, designed and embellished by the leading architects and artists of the time, radiates out into the surrounding countryside from the Royal Palace in the 'Command Area' of Turin to include many country residences and hunting lodges.

When the Duke of Savoy, Emmanuel-Philibert (1553-6O), decided to move the seat of his court from Chambéry to Turin in 1562, he assigned an unexpected and decisive role to the latter. The new capital of the Duchy was still a small, fortified medieval town that had remained on the fringes of the main cultural developments of the Renaissance. As a result of the impetus of Emmanuel-Philibert, his successors developed a vast building programme throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, giving the town and its region a Baroque style, the pivot of which is the residences. These pleasure and hunting residences, built in the countryside along the PO, on the hills, and further away in vast wooded areas, also serve as reference points in a system of large estates important in both economic and strategic terms. This programme was the symbol of the absolute power of the Savoy rulers, who built a state and a European capital. They acquired the throne of the Kingdom of Sicily with Victor-Amadeus Il(l713) and that of the Kingdom of Italy with Victor- Emmanuel II (1861), which they kept until the foundation of the Republic in 1946.
The construction of these buildings involves a town planning system that provides links between one palace and another and between the palaces and the villas, at the same time giving an architectural unity and solemnity to the areas that house the seats of power. Thus the group of buildings in the "Command Area," which are connected with each other starting from the ducal residence and where central power was exercised in its different political, administrative, and cultural forms, together with the palaces of the House of Savoy (Palazzo Madama, Palazzo di Carignano), form the central node, which has a direct relationship with the outlying residences by means of a radial plan, the form of which can be traced from its centre, Turin. They are rapidly accessible from the capital through a network of straight tree-lined roads, which ensure the cohesive and the functional aspects of the ensemble.
This system is underpinned by large-scale planning projects. Although the organization of the defences of Turin was Emmanuel-Philibert's major preoccupation, he succeeded in establishing his residence in the former bishop's palace. Between the end of the 16th century and the 18th century, his successors carried out three large expansion projects centred on the Piazza Castello. The first urban and architectural renovation schemes, launched by Charles-Emmanuel I to the plans of the architect Ascanio Vitozzi (late 16th/early 17th century), were designed to create a "Command Area" to the north-east of the city that would be more in keeping with princely rank and be more practical in defensive terms. The former ducal palace, which was slightly away from the centre, was rebuilt on a new orientation so as to be in direct contact with the Piazza Castello. It was also linked with the southern part of the city by opening a new road (1612-15, the present Via Roma) in the direction of the Mirafiori ducal residence in the country (now demolished). This project was a major innovation, since it established bipolarity in urban and territorial terms.
In 1673, Charles-Emmanuel II (1638-75) commissioned Amedeo di CastelIamonte to extend the town eastwards in the direction of the PO. The new main axis, the Via PO, linked the Piazza Castello with the bridge crossing the river in the direction of the hills where the Villa della Regina was built. The opportunity was also taken to extend the Piazza Castello eastwards, and the State Secretariats and the Royal Theatre were later built along its sides.
Victor-Amadeus II (1675-1730) commissioned Michelangelo Garove, Antonio Bertola, and (from 1716) Filippo Juvarra to carry out the third extension. This was in the direction of the western access to the city, running from the Porta Susina to the Castello di Rivoli and the Palazzina di Stupinigi.
Charles-Emmanuel III (1730-73) inherited several projects from his father. He planned the Palazzo Reale, the State Secretariats, and the theatre on the Piazza Castello, and organized a vast rebuilding and extension programme for the residences, involving Filippo Juvarra, followed by Benedetto Alfieri when Juvarra left Turin in 1735.
The relationships and dynastic links that the House of Savoy established with the royal courts in Paris, Lisbon, Madrid, Munich, and Vienna as well as the towns of Italy created a cosmopolitan artistic and cultural milieu at the court of Turin. Emmanuel-Philibert laid the foundations of a court tradition that had not previously existed in Turin. As the two superb volumes of the Theatrum Sabaudiae, published in 1682, demonstrate, the Dukes of Savoy were tireless builders. With ceaseless perseverance, they enriched their family heritage and commissioned internationally famous architects, artists, and gardeners such Ascanio Vitoti, Carlo and Amedeo di Castellamonte, Guarino Guarini, Filippo Juvarra, Michelangelo Garove, Benedetto Altieri, Daniel Seiter, Francesco Solimena, Sebastiano Ricci, Charles Andre Vanloo, Claudio Francesco Beaumont, Francesco Ladatte, Michel Benard, and many others.

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