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Masserano (Biella)- Palace of the Princes

Foto Palace of the Princes -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Palace of the Princes -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Palace of the Princes -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Palace of the Princes -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Palace of the Princes -  of historical value  of artistic value
Show to visit in the Biella area:
Places  of historical value  of artistic value in the Biella area: Palace of the PrincesThe Palace of the Princes of Masserano, today divided between the seat of the Municipality and the Carabinieri barracks, is the main testimony of the era in which Masserano was an independent principality, complete with the right to mint its own money. This era ended in 1767, when the principality was annexed to the Duchy of Savoy.
Until 1867 the palace remained the residence of the Ferrero Fieschi family, who built the palace between the end of the 16th century and the second half of the 17th century. It then became municipal property.
The part of the building that houses the Municipality headquarters is part of the Masserano Museum Center and can be visited on particular occasions.

The palace was built in 1597 at the behest of Marchioness Claudia of Savoy and her son Francesco Filiberto immediately south of the fortress, of which today only a few remains which have recently come to light are still visible.
Between 1632 and 1634 the palace was enlarged, with the addition of the so-called "new apartments", i.e. the part now home to the carabinieri barracks.

The palace has a linear structure, with an elbow forming an obtuse angle about two-thirds of the overall length in the south-east direction. The north-west part corresponds to the older part, the one that can be visited, the east part corresponds to the newer part, occupied by the carabinieri barracks and cannot be visited.
The building, which overlooks the main road that crosses the upper part of the town, does not appear at all flashy from the outside. The surfaces of the three-story facade are covered in simple white plaster and are almost completely devoid of any decoration. There are no balconies either.
The only decorations are present on the outside of the tower, where the coats of arms of Francesco Ludovico Ferrero Fieschi and Cristiana Simiana di Pianezza are still visible, as well as a sundial and some commemorative plaques of those fallen in the various wars. In reality, rather than a tower, it would be more correct to speak of a block that acts as a hinge between the two wings, as it is a part just little higher than the adjacent parts.
The main entrance to the palace consists of a green door in Louis XVI style, located in the central core of the building, to the left of the tower. The ground floor, which originally housed service rooms and also prisons, cannot be visited.
The only part of the building that can be accessed by visitors is the noble floor, ie the first floor. It is accessed via the grand staircase inside the tower that starts from the room that was originally dedicated to carriages. On the internal wall of the tower there are two plaques, one dedicated to Pietro Marcandetti, known as Generali, a Masseranese musician who was responsible for the invention of the "crescendo" and who was Gioacchino Rossini's teacher, the other to the Masseraneses who fell in battle between 1848 and 1938.
In the following is a description of the rooms open to the public, according to a probable visit route.
Hall of the Four Cardinal Virtues: It is a large, rather elongated rectangular room. The name is due to the presence, at the ends of the upper south and north friezes, of four monochrome ocher decorations depicting allegories of the four cardinal virtues.
The floor, which is not original, is in terracotta, while the ceiling is coffered and painted in tempera and includes ten panels. Inside each one there is a rhombus decorated with vegetal motifs with a stylized flower in the center and surrounded by four double-tailed mermaids.
On the walls, immediately under the ceiling, there is the typical band of frescoes. At the ends of each band two trompe l'oeil shelves with a trophy represented by one of the motifs typical of the family coat of arms. In the centre, instead, an oval with a depiction of an episode from the Old Testament.
Another band of frescoes, with simple plant-themed decorations, is also present at the base of the walls.
Inside the room are preserved various precious artefacts from the Baroque era from the Church of San Teonesto (not yet present on the site):
- The statues of Saints Theonestus (with the spear), Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Bonaventure in cardinal's robes, Saint Diego and Saint Dominic.
- Two silver-plated wooden candlesticks
- The so-called Retable of Tiberino (Larger picture), grandiose gilded wooden retable made by Bartolomeo Tiberino from Arona in 1654. Unfortunately robbed of its statuettes in 1963, it was restored in 1988.
The retable has an architectural structure and comprehends three levels plus a base and a level occupied by putti in the act of supporting the structure above.
Each level is punctuated by columns and pilasters decorated with talamons that separate balconies, windows or simply panels containing relief decorations. In the center of the first level Christ is depicted at the base of a monumental staircase. In the center of the second, inside a small balcony, there is a blessing bishop (the only remaining statuette). In the center of the third level, finally, a bas-relief depicting the coronation of the Virgin. In the center of the lower band there is a tabernacle on the door of which a Pietà is carved.
As evidence of the care with which the retable was created, the back side is no less decorated than the front one. Here too in the center of the first level there is the depiction of Christ (here with the cross).
In the room there are also a large red marble fireplace and, above it, the Map of the Savoy States of 1851, a gift from Quintino Sella.
King David's Hall (Fig. 2): This is a smaller room, in fact the ceiling, which has the same structure as that of the Hall of the Four Cardinal Virtues, includes only four fields, decorated in tempera in ocher and blue. Here too there are two frescoed bands. In the upper one there is only one folder per side, each containing the depiction of an episode from the life of King David: David presenting the head of Goliath to King Saul, David crowned King of Israel, The son of Jonathan is presented to David, The transportation of the Ark of the Covenant.
The lower band also in this case includes only decorative elements.
The floor is in terracotta and could be the original one, although with some renovations.
Room III: Room very similar to the previous one. In this case the upper frescoed band has ocher as its background colour. At the center of each side there is a mixed-line trompe l'oeil frame with inside the depiction of a biblical episode taken from the Book of Esther. In particular, Hamanus trying to kill Mordecai is recognisable. Each frame is flanked by green vases, while above it there is an empty folder and below it a shell and a mask.
The lower frescoed band is divided into panels containing vegetal-themed decorations and, in the centre, a folder with a green monochrome landscape.
The room hosts a large Equestrian Portrait of Prince Eugene of Savoy.
Aurora's Room: It is characterized by a green pavilion vault on which there are opulent golden stucco decorations. These decorations include in particular five elaborate mixtilinear frames in which there are frescoes by Ercole Procaccini the Younger depicting subjects with a mythological theme. The blue background of these frescoes creates a clear contrast with the green background of the vault. In the central frame the goddess Aurora is depicted scattering flower petals during the dawn over which the chariot of the Sun god passes (frame in correspondence with the window). The other frames contain the Fall of Icarus, the rising of the moon, the goddess Selene with the starry mantle, the myth of the creation of the constellation Ursa Major.
There is also a decorated band at the base of the walls in which putti support frames containing baskets of fruit. In the corners, the monograms of Princes Francesco Ludovico Ferrero Fieschi and his wife Maria Cristina are depicted.
Room of Minerva or of the Arts: The structure of this room is similar to that of the previous one. On a background of red and gold tiles, the golden stucco frames contain frescoes with depictions of Minerva (central frame) and allegories of the arts: Painting, Geometry, Sculpture and Music. At the four corners, four double-headed eagles holding the princely crown. The frescoes are attributed to Giovanni Stefano Danedi, Giuseppe Danedi and to Ercole Procaccini the Younger.
Also in this room at the base of the walls there is a band with decorative elements, frames containing motifs of flowers and fruits and the monograms of Princes Francesco Ludovico Ferrero Fieschi and his wife Maria Cristina.
Hall of Heroes and Heroines (Fig. 3): It is larger than the previous two. The two openings in the north wall were added only in the twentieth century and caused the loss of part of the decorations at the base of the walls. The ceiling is coffered and includes nine fields with a rose window in the center with vegetal elements and four white sea monsters on a blue background around it. Each field is delimited by a double braided frame. The decorative band immediately under the ceiling is divided by trompe l'oeil talamons in three panels on each side, each of which depicts an episode of a character from the classical era. It is probable that these decorations represent the last work of Carlo Francesco Nuvolone. In this case they would date back to 1661.
The decorative band at the base of the walls includes stylized plant elements, with a frame with a landscape in the center of each side.
The hall houses the precious canvas depicting Saint Theonestus painted at the beginning of the eighteenth century by the Baroque painter Giovanni Antonio De Grott (or De Groot), Milanese by birth but Flemish by origin.
Zodiac Room: Another room belonging to the second historical nucleus, and therefore larger in size. Here too the ceiling is coffered and includes nine panels decorated in tempera. At the center of each of them an Olympic deity is depicted within a mixtilinear frame surrounded by plant-themed decorations on a blue background. These depictions are probably attributable to the workshop of Ercole Procaccini the Younger.
Immediately under the ceiling there is a rich frieze with gilded stucco decorations and frescoes. Each side is divided into three panels in each of which, within an imaginative stucco frame, a month and a zodiac sign are depicted. Also in this case the author appears to be Ercole Procaccini the Younger.
In the room there is a large seventeenth-century black marble fireplace, called the Fireplace of the Allegories, with sumptuous stucco decorations. The shelf is supported by two caryatids and under it there is a stucco garland with fruits and a cherub's head in the centre.
Above the shelf there is a sumptuous white stucco frame with inside a canvas depicting The Sacrifice of Marcus Curzius, an allegory of military and chivalric values. On the sides of the frame there are two large stucco statues, depicting the allegories of Fortitude and Abundance.
At the base of the walls there is the usual frescoed band containing decorative elements with a vegetal theme, putti and frames with depictions of landscapes.
In the twentieth century, to transform the room into a council room, a large part of the north wall was removed (but not entirely) so as to create an open space with the
Venus or Alcove Room (Fig. 4): It was originally the prince's bedroom. It is characterized by a pavilion vault entirely covered with baroque stuccos strongly in relief with the shape of garlands, fruit, putti and frescoes by Ercole Procaccini the Younger. All frescoes have the myth of Venus as their theme.
At the base of the walls is the usual band of frescoes, here with floral and fruit motifs. The windows' embrasures are decorated to simulate marble.
  • The next three rooms formed the prince's private apartment
  • Aeolus Room: Room characterized by a vault completely decorated with stuccoes and frescoes. The stuccoes, partly gilded and partly silvered, are very in relief. They are composed of an elaborate round frame in the center which appears supported by four pseudocaryatids, each holding a satyr. The ceiling is thus divided into five fields, decorated with dry-finished frescoes. They were painted in 1661, begun by Carlo Francesco Nuvolone and completed by his brother Giuseppe after Carlo's death. In the central field Aeolus is depicted, in the others Phryxus, Helle and the Golden Fleece, Neptune and Cupid, The Rape of Europa, The Rape of Proserpina.
    Hall of Pluto and Proserpina: The hall is rectangular and is characterized by the vault, entirely decorated with polychrome stuccos and frescoes painted in 1650, probably by Carlo Francesco Nuvolone. At the center of the vault, within a mixtilinear stucco frame surrounded by flowers and fruits and connected to the corners of the vault by concatenations, also in stucco, of vases, shells and stylized plant elements, is depicted Pluto abducting Proserpina (or the Abduction of Eurydice by a demon). In the other four fields of the vault are represented: Paris and the golden apple; Jupiter, Antione and Cupid; Mars, Cupid and Venus; Hippomenes and Atalanta picking the golden fruits.
    Immediately under the vault there is a frieze, thinner than those present in the other rooms, delimited at the bottom by a stucco garlanda and unfortunately very darkened in many parts. It contains floral and carpological motifs and frames with cherubs playing or joking.
    Hall of Allegories: Small room with an apparently square but actually irregular shape. It was originally the bathroom. The vault is completely covered with stuccos and frescoes dating back to 1650. Five allegories of uncertain interpretation are depicted inside round stucco frames. According to some, in the center there is the goddess Flora with the mirror and the telescope in her hand, next to a man with the telescope and, above, Cupid. Around, the four seasons, each depicted as a couple of lovers together with Cupid. According to others, the frames contain allegories of the five senses, with Sight in the central one.
    The wooden floor is the original one. The window embrasures are decorated to simulate marble panels.
    Gallery (Fig. 5): It is a large rectangular room 41 meters long and equipped with a barrel vault completely decorated with stuccos. Along three sides of the room, at the base of the vault, there is a frame with a band underneath it entirely occupied by stucco decorations depicting vegetal elements and cherubs. In the southern wall there are eleven windows which correspond, in the northern one, to as many panels falling within the thickness of the wall and surrounded by a stucco frame. They originally contained as many canvases.
    The short wall where the entrance to the room is located is also richly decorated with stucco. The entrance door is surrounded by a rich frame on the pediment of which rests a vase of fruit held by two putti. The same decoration is also repeated on the other half of the wall, although there is no door there. Between the two lunettes there is an oval niche with inside the bust of a Roman emperor wearing a laurel wreath.
    Finally, in the lunette of the wall there is an empty frame flanked by two depictions of Minerva and surmounted by cherub heads.
  • Other spaces not visitable
  • Chapel: It can be reached via the Gallery. It has an octagonal plan and decorated with stucco. Until a few years ago it was used for residential purposes and therefore requires extensive restoration.
    Attics: The prince's personal service family resided on the second floor.
    Tower: It includes three rooms decorated with biblical and bucolic themed frescoes. The Court Chaplain lived in them.
    East wing (Carabinieri barracks): Includes numerous rooms with fresco decorations. Of particular value is the decoration of the grand hall, in which there are 18 panels depicting episodes of ancient history are separated by male nudes.
    For details, please refer to the booklet available on site.

    Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

    Via Roma, 188, 13866 Masserano BI
    Palace of the Princes: Further pictures in the section Photography
    Masserano (Biella, Italy): Vault of the Hall of Allegories in the Palace of the Princes
    Masserano (Biella, Italy): Aurora's Room in the Palace of the Princes
    Masserano (Biella, Italy): Retable of Tiberino in the Palace of the Princes
    Masserano (Biella, Italy): Fireplace of the Allegories in the Palace of the Princes
    Masserano (Biella, Italy): Hall of Pluto in the Palace of the Princes
    Masserano (Biella, Italy): Vault of the hall of Venus in the Palace of the Princes
    Masserano (Biella, Italy): Hall of Venus in the Palace of the Princes
    Masserano (Biella, Italy): Entrance wall of the Gallery in the Palace of the Princes
    Masserano (Biella, Italy): Hall of the Four Cardinal Virtues in the Palace of the Princes
    Masserano (Biella, Italy): Grand staircase of the Palace of the Princes