Temporary exhibitions at the Reggia di Venaria are organized in two spaces: the Juvarra Stables and the Rooms of the Arts.
The Juvarra Stables
The 18th century building that is home to the Citroniera (orangery) and the Great Stables is a stunning construction of impressive size and architectural design: it is here that major international exhibitions are held.
Built in 1722-27 by Filippo Juvarra, the Citroniera – that was originally used to store citrus plants – and the Great Stables make up an imposing building that covers a 5,000 sq. m. area, each measuring 140 meters in length, almost 15 m in width and height. This is the largest exhibition space in the Reggia di Venaria.
The original budget for its construction was largely exceeded, and the building contractors complained about it while sparing no praise for this architectural feat: “They had us build an edifice of extraordinary height (...) more closely resembling a magnificent temple than a stable and an orangery”. The latter, originally conceived as a storage facility for ornamental citrus plants in the winter, provides a magnificent backdrop to the Flower Garden and its main entrance is aligned with one of the longest alleys: the Royal Alley. On the inside the Citroniera appears like a huge greenhouse with large windows opening to the south to maximize sun exposure.
Coming in from the Gardens or the Bookshop, visitors step into the Citroniera and find themselves into a richly decorated and exceptionally bright central nave.
This space was designed to inspire awe by virtue of its considerable proportions as well as its plastic and chiaroscuro effects: the niches that punctuate the side walls add a great dynamic flow to the outer shell of this building. To the south the arc-shaped openings are topped by oculi or round recesses to maximize light and heat in the winter, to the north the same architectural structures are replicated on the partition wall that separates this space from the adjoining Stables in a trompe-l’oeil effect.
Juvarra had originally designed a rich set of stucco decorations for pilaster strips, recesses and openings like those in the Great Gallery: however they were only partially completed and disappeared in the 19th century.
The Great Stables
The Great Stables once sheltered up to 160 horses: detailed drawings by ancient master carpenters still document the wooden boxes, now lost. The stunning dimensions of this space - much greater than the stables found in other royal residences across Piedmont and comparable only to the construction built by Jean Auber in 1719 in Chantilly for the Great Condé – are testament to the key role that horses played in the sumptuous choreography of the royal hunts and to the ambitions of the commissioning patrons.
The Rooms of the Arts
The rooms on the upper floor of the Reggia had never been open to the public and were by far the most seriously damaged: floors and plasterwork were missing, rainwater dripped in from the cracks in the ceiling and the comprehensive tests that were carried out indicated that subsequent interventions had almost entirely obliterated the historical features of these rooms.
The nuptial apartment of Vittorio Emanuele, Duke of Aosta, and Marie Therese of Austria-Este was originally built in 1788-89 by the Court Architects Giuseppe Battista Piacenza and Carlo Randoni and followed the neoclassical taste of the time. Renowned wood sculptors - Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo, Francesco Bolgiè, Biagio Ferrero, Giuseppe Gianotti - also participated in the project. No trace remains today of the original rooms, except for most of the project drawings. Part of the original decorations are found today in other Savoy Residences, while a commode is conserved at the Stupinigi Hunting Lodge.
The restoration works that were recently completed adopted modern technologies to maintain the architectural unity of the apartment and placed emphasis to the remaining original decorations and architectural elements. The restoration works brought to light late 19th-century decorations made by the military that bear witness to the use of the this area as a barracks, and possibly as a meeting room. The decorations mainly consist of military victories, shields, lances and helmets. In partcular a Savoy coat of arms stands out for its flower decorations that are similar to the ones that were discovered in the main court of the Fountain of Neptune in the Borgo Castello of La Mandria. Drawings were discovered in another room depicting dragons against a chequered background pattern.
The Monumental Staircase by Piacenza
In 1788, on the occasion of the wedding of Vittorio Emanuele, Duke of Aosta, to Marie Therese of Hapsburg-Este, it was decided to build a new apartment on the first floor of the Palace. It was therefore necessary to build a connecting staircase as well. Designed by the Court Architect Giuseppe Battista Piacenza (1735-1818), the staircase disappears into the facade, adapting to an earlier plan by Michelangelo Garove.
This addition, that proved extremely challenging from a structural point of view, also unveiled traces of the mouldings of the cornice on the pre-existing historical facade above the collapsed ceiling of the staircase. A painstaking artistic restoration successfully reinstated the delicate 18th century hues of the marmorino stuccos and plasterwork.
The new staircase
The construction of the new staircase connecting the western Gardens to the new Rooms of the Arts on the Upper Floors and the latter to the ground floor exhibition rooms, is part of a long and complex project to recover the Reggia’s historical and architectural splendour. The staircase unwinds like a steel ribbon and runs along the fracture in the façade of the Palace of Diana facing out towards the Court of Honour, that marks the juncture between the 17th and 18th century portions of the building. Its 120 steps, the landings and the openings are covered in wood coming from original beams recovered from the Reggia and the Castle of Aglié.
The complex and integrated nature of the Reggia does not allow for individual restoration projects: the restoration of the Upper Floors required the renovation of the monumental staircase built in the late 18th century by the architect Piacenza to connect the Court of Honour with the Apartments of the Dukes of Aosta, while the restoration of the rooms on the first floor reveals today an extraordinary and unexpected view of the Gardens.