Dripping with gold a royal boat, richly decorated ceremonial carriages looking more like Faberge’ eggs, than vehicles, all these masterpieces are exposed in the scenery of the Reggia of Venaria Reale near Turin. On the occasion of visiting the Baroque residence I watched two interesting exhibitions: Carrozze Regali (Royal Carriages) and La Barca Sublime (The Sublime Boat) which perfectly demonstrate rich and splendor life of the Royal House of Savoy.
Everything has started at the end of 17the century. Philippe de Chiéze, an architect, got the order from the margrave of Brandenburg to design a representative carriage. He created Berlina, a model that with time was replaced by a sedan car type (in Italian berlina means sedan, by the way). Its elegance and functionality gained immediately popularity on European courts and other sovereigns changed horse (in the past only ladies appeared publicly in carriages) into a vehicle on four wheels. And because at that time official ceremonies was the only way of communication with people, it was nothing but precisely directed performance and carriages became a kind of stage, symbol of prestige and richness.
Their creation was supervised by great architects, painters and a team of craftsmen (saddler, tailor, ironworker, glassworker, turner, goldsmith and many other specialists). Each piece was a real masterpiece and today it’s an narrator of different story.
One ceremonial carriage itself is an attraction, to say nothing of the collection from 18th and 19th century, exposed in spacious interiors of royal stables – Scuderie Juvarriane, called in honor of outstanding architect Filippo Juvarra to who we owe a present aspect of the palace La Reggia. Among all these gems one deserves special attention – a gilded coupe’ Berlingotto of Vittorio Emanuele I from 1789. It’s the only remained royal carriage in Italy after French Revolution, the last symbol of the Ancient Regime.
Despite magnificent carriages my attention was caught by ornamental sedan chairs, trolleys, but also the 1909 automobile “Palombella” that belonged to Queen Margherita which marked the passage from carriages to cars at official parades.
But even the most precious carriage can’t by compared with an extraordinary boat, a symbol of power and richness of Savoy Family – Peota Reale. This imposing galley (16 m long and 2,6 m wide), dazzles with luxury, fine details, and even with its price (34 000 lire, equivalent of 3 million Euros if paid today). Its name “peota” means a river boat. It was ordered in 1729 by Vittorio Amadeo III. In Venice for two years a team of artists and craftsmen worked on its creation to arrive at the end to Turin after 32 days of trip.
The sublime boat it’s the only Venice galley that remained to our times. It was used as fabulous frame for official ceremonies – royal parades and weddings. In 1869 Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy, donated the boat to the city of Turin and after that it was expose in the Museo Civico (il Museo Civico d’Arte Antica di Torino). After a long and costly renovation it was placed in Juvarra Stables in the Reggia of Venaria Reale.
Because a royal galley needs a royal exposure the Sublime Boat exhibition is enriched by a 30-minutes show prepared by Davide Livermore, a stage director specialized in musical theater. A performance is divided into 3 steps. At the beginning I had possibility to learn some facts about the boat: history, transportation from Venice to Turin and the renovation process. Then I moved to the second room – a Baroque theater in which main roles were played by monarchs, like the progenitor of the boat, Vittorio Amadeo III and Narcissus, a figure that decorates a bow. But the most interesting show was just ahead. In the third and the last room a majestic boat, a gilded glittering beauty emerges from darkness. In the background I can hear the musical arias by Antonio Vivaldi. A light is illuminating sculptures of Narcissus and figures symbolizing the river Po and Adige, rudder in a shape of a dragon is wrapped by golden horses. In the middle of the boat I admire a beautiful cabin of monarchy and his guests. Videos and glass floor make venetian galley to drift on blue waters again…
Special thanks for Consorzio la Venaria Reale for sharing pictures of Peota Reale. More info about other exhibitions in Venaria Reale on: http://www.lavenaria.it/web/