Italian Baroque at the Royal Palace of Turin

Built during the late Renaissance in Italy in the 16th century, the Royal Palace of Turin was at the heart of the Savoy dynasty for more than two centuries. Today, the Royal Palace functions as a group of museums in Turin’s historically and culturally significant Piazza Castello. The palace’s bold and elegant neoclassical façade is home to many cutting-edge examples of Italian Baroque design.

Over 20 houses and palaces were built by the Savoy dynasty in and around Turin, with the Royal Palace being the crown jewel.

The Palace Park covers a large area in the heart of the subalpine city of Turin. Built in the 16th century by Vittorio Amedeo II, Carlo Emanuele III and Vittorio Amedeo III, the interiors of the palace were later modernized in the Baroque style by the architect Filippo Juvarra. The accomplished architect designed many famous Italian churches and palaces in addition to stage sets and fine examples of Rococo design.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace houses the famous Chapel of the Holy Shroud which was added to the palace in the 17th century. The architecture of the chapel is a feat of geometric vision by mathematician and architect Guarino Guarini. Rising with several distinct levels, the tower uses a myriad of arches and windows that form a dome and a spire. The religiously significant design of the interior is a symphony of mathematical relationships, symbols and patterns.

The Royal Palace houses important collections of arms and art, not the least of which is found in the famous Royal Armory. From floor to ceiling, the palace is decorated with exquisite design and craftsmanship. Tapestries, frescoes, elaborate stucco designs, paintings and beautiful vases from the 17th century fill the many unique rooms and halls of the palace. Its museums house priceless artifacts, including a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci and the Shroud of Turin.

The strong and elegant neoclassical facade of the Royal Palace of Turin shines white on the vast stone square of Piazza Castello. The strong lines and subtle details of the exterior walls mask the richly decorated Baroque rooms that await inside. (Public domain)
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The ballroom of the Royal Palace of Turin is a sumptuous space lit by eight brilliant chandeliers. A richly detailed gap, ceiling constructed with recessed panels, creates a depth and complexity that is reflected in mock coffer designs on the floor below. Tall white pillars stretch from floor to ceiling, and a continuous fresco of dancing girls runs along the top of the walls under gold-painted cornices and bronze capitals. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)

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The Royal Armory in Turin was designed by Baroque architect Filippo Juvarra in 1733. The beautifully vaulted ceiling rises above a marble checkerboard floor that stretches from the Royal Palace to the Palazzo Madama. With over 5,000 pieces of historical arms and armor, the Dramatic Room houses one of the most famous collections in the world. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)

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The Royal Armory’s spectacular oil-painted ceiling features scenes depicting stories from Aeneas and the famous painting ‘Allegory of the Life of Man’. Painted by Claudio Francesco Beaumont, the paintings extend down the hallway over the vaulted ceiling which is paneled with sophisticated cartouche framing and beautiful gold painted stuccowork. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)
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The staircase of the Royal Palace of Turin was built by Benedetto Alfieri as access to the state offices. Sculptures of Spanish royalty stand proudly in apses and gaze at visitors in the imposing space. Subtle shades of yellow and pale pink climb up the richly paneled walls, creating an added dimension on every level. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)
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Shiny gilt stucco decorations frame decorative Chinese panels and large mirrors in what was once a royal toilet. Designed by Filippo Juvarra, this rococo toilet features a ceiling painted with a landscape scene, which rises in the center into the sky with floating mythical figures. (Ambra75/CC BY-SA 4.0)
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The Chapel of the Holy Shroud was added to the Royal Palace of Turin in the 17th century. Built by Italian architect Guarino Guarini, the intricate dome is designed with blocks of marble that fit together in a self-supporting fashion. The multi-level tower was designed to include different geometric shapes that contrast at each level. An interlaced pattern of windows sits above smooth undulating arches with a spire rising above. A fire severely damaged the church in 1997, prompting a monumental restoration effort that spanned 28 years. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)
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The otherworldly interior of the Chapel of the Holy Shroud showcases the beautiful patterns on the interior walls of the dome. Spiraling layers of marble form a golden focal point in the tower high above; a dove in its center represents the Holy Spirit. The architect of the chapel, Guarino Guarini, was a mathematician and a priest. Guarini’s devotion to creating architecture of mathematical and religious significance is evident in this masterpiece of form and light. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)
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This sumptuous hall, inspired by French royal architecture, once led to the bedrooms of Vittorio Amedeo II. It is named Galleria del Daniel because of the ceilings painted by the 17th century artist Daniel Seiter. Seiter’s ceiling includes depictions of Jupiter, Apollo, and “The Apotheosis of a Hero”, which features Seiter’s patron, Amadeo II. A long golden painted cornice beautifully connects the golden borders of the ceilings and walls. (Ambra75/CC BY-SA 4.0)
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The throne room of the palace is covered in gold and purple, showcasing the luxurious excess of the Royal Palace. The throne itself looks small under its canopy in the heavily decorated, mirrored space. An intricately designed gold balustrade separates the king’s seat from those who would have stood before him. (Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0)

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