Postcard from Turin, Italy: How royals gave the city a French accent

Statue of Emanuele Filiberto (1528-1580), Duke of Savoy

Marriages among the titled in Europe generally had larger ramifications than the immediate household.

Once upon a time, the House of Savoy ruled over an Alpine region northwest of Italy, primarily now part of France. In 1051, Otto of Savoy (1023?-1060?) wed Adelaide, a marchioness whose titles brought Turin (Torino) under the House of Savoy.

The land that would eventually become Italy was a battleground in a constant tug of war between France and Spain between 1494 and 1559. When Emanuele Filiberto (1528-1580) inherited the title of the Duke of Savoy in 1553, he found himself somewhat turf-less. Turin was under French control.

Already known as “Testa d’fer” (“Ironhead”) for his early military service to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-1558) (Charles I of Spain), Emanuele continued to serve the Habsburgs. Emanuele chose sides wisely. The seasoned soldier led the forces of Spanish King Philip II (1527-1598) to a victory at the Battle of Saint Quentin in northern France on the feast day of Saint Lawrence (of the grill) in 1557.

Gradually regaining the former Savoy kingdom from Spain and France [no doubt assisted by his marriage to Margaret (1523-1574), Duchess of Berry and the sister of King Henry II of France (1519-1559)], Emanuele made Turin the capital.

Bishop Domenico Della Rovere (?-1587) had commissioned a palace there as his residence and had the Cathedral of San Giovanni erected next door in 1498. Emanuele made the Bishop’s Palace his own. The Bishop’s Palace was hardly large enough to accommodate the needs of the ruling family, so Emanuele and his successors continually added wings and additional structures. The current façade of Palazzo Reale addressing the sweeping Piazza Castello was the result of an ambitious construction project launched by Regent Maria Christina (1606-1663), a daughter of King Henry IV (1553-1610) of France and the widow of Vittorio Amedeo I di Savoia (1587-1637).

The domed Baroque Chapel of the Holy Shroud, Cappella della Sacra Dinone, was built adjacent to the Cathedral and the Royal Palace at the end of the 15th century during the reign of Carlo Emanuele II (1634-1675). The cherished cloth some claim bears the image of Jesus came into the possession of the House of Savoy in 1453. The relic was damaged by a fire in a chapel in the Savoy’s earlier capital before Carlo Emanuel moved it to Turin.

A major fire again threatened the shroud in 1997, with firefighters smashing its bulletproof glass to spare it. The renovated chapel was not reopened until this past fall, so the shroud itself was tucked away out of sight during our summer visit.

Successive Savoy rulers of the Kingdom of Sardinia resided in the Palazzo Reale until 1865. Victor Emanuele II (1820-1878) , the newly crowned King of Italy, moved out of the residence shortly after commissioning architect Domenico Ferri (1795-1878) to add the elegant Grand Staircase of Honor to the interior.

The Italian Republic claimed ownership of the Royal Palace and its grounds in 1946, and the extensive compound now is operated as Musei Reali Torino.

When Emanuele Filiberto made Turin the official capital of Savoy, he also turned his back on some of the family’s French connections by proclaiming Italian the official language of the kingdom. While he changed the spoken tongue, the architecture and design of Turin never lost a strong French accent.

Postcard from Budapest, Hungary: Museum mashup

An exuberance of spirit from centuries past is reflected in a lack of inhibition in combining bright colors, different materials and multiple patterns in everything from jewelry to architecture. Ethnic clothing worn by Hungarians, such as the outfit on left above, easily could have served as inspiration for the current line of clothing featured in Gucci store windows, on the right above. And, in photos down below, I so would love to have a tile floor like those excavated in Buda Castle after World War II.

Taking license from this Hungarian spirit, here is a mashup of photos from four more of Budapest’s museums.

The Hungarian Diet established the Hungarian National Museum in 1808. The classic columned museum housing the collection of historical relics took a decade to construct, opening in 1846. The square in front of the museum became a gathering spot for rallies during the 1848-49 Revolution and War of Independence. Parliament convened there often until the present-day seat of government was completed on the banks of the Danube.

In 1872, the specialized Budapest Museum of Ethnography was spun off from the national museum. In celebration of the 1896 Millennial, 24 buildings characterizing residential styles of different ethnic groups were erected into a “village” in City Park. While the houses were removed, the furniture and clothing assembled to fill them became an important part of the collection. The collection grew, but its home wandered.

Today, its prominent home is across the plaza from Parliament. Topped by a chariot bearing the personification of the guiding spirit of enlightenment, the building originally served as the Ministry of Justice. Following extensive damage in World War II, the structure became home to the Institute of the Hungarian Labor Movement in 1950. The Hungarian National Gallery was moved in later, but its relocation to the Buda Palace freed the hall for the use of the Museum of Ethnography in 1975.

The Budapest History Museum, also known as the Castle Museum, was founded in 1887, moving into its home in the Royal Palace in 1967. In addition to the history of the capital, the museum focuses on artifacts found during excavation and rebuilding of the castle. To learn more about the castle’s turbulent history, please go back to an earlier post.

And then, make a leap to the contemporary. If Peter Ludwig went into the family business, cement might have weighed down his pursuit of art. Instead he married Irene Monheim and ended up in her family’s business, Monheim Schokolade. Collecting was the German couple’s passion.

Porcelain and Delft tiles were followed by rare editions, Pre-Columbian, medieval and then Classical art. But it was Ludwig’s acquisition of American Neo-Dada and Pop Art which first brought him to public attention and made him a celebrity.

At the height of his activities in the mid-Seventies Ludwig was buying on average a work of art every single day. His vast collection not only decorated the company offices and his home at Aachen but was loaned to museums in Germany and abroad. Often the loans became gifts and the museums changed their names in recognition of Ludwig’s great generosity.

Today there are no fewer than 30 Ludwig Museums in Germany and abroad….

Frank Whitford, “Obituary: Peter Ludwig,” Independent, July 26, 1996

In 1989, the Ludwig Foundation donated 70 works of art to Hungary to serve as the core of the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum specializes in post-1945 art to integrate the products of contemporary foreign and Hungarian art into Hungarian intellectual life. In 2005, the museum moved from space in Buda Palace into a portion of a striking new contemporary arts center on the Danube, Mupa Budapest.