Palazzo Madama e Casaforte degli Acaja is a palace in Turin, northern Italy. At the beginning of the first century BC, the site of the palace was occupied by a gate in the Roman walls from which the decumanus maximus of Augusta Taurinorum (the ancient name of Turin) departed. Two of the towers, although restored, still testify to this original nucleus. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the gate was used as a fortified stronghold in the defences of the city.
Later the building became a possession of the Savoia-Acaja, a secondary branch of the House of Savoy; in the early fourteenth century, they enlarged it into a castle. A century later Ludovico of Acaja rebuilt it in square shape, with an inner court and a portico, and four cylindrical towers at each corner. The form of this edifice is still clearly recognizable from the back section of the palace. After the extinction of the Acajas, the edifice became a residence for guests of the house of Savoy.
In 1637 the regent for Duke Charles II Emmanuel, Christine Marie of France, chose it as her personal residence. She commissioned the covering of the court and a revamping of the inner apartments. Sixty years later another regent, Marie Jeanne of Savoy, lived in the palace, conferring upon it definitively the nickname of Madama (Italian for Madame). She asked architect Filippo Juvarra to design a new Baroque palace in white stone, but the works halted in 1721 after only the front section had been completed.
Overlooking Piazza Castello, the section built by Juvarra (illustration, right) constitutes today a scenographic façade a single bay deep, screening the rear part of the edifice, which has remained unchanged (illustration, above right). On the exterior, Juvarra expressed what was intended as a magnificent architectural preamble to an edifice that was never built, as a high-ceilinged piano nobile with arch-headed windows, which is linked to a mezzanine above it by a colossal order of pilasters of a Composite order. Each pilaster stands on a sturdy and formal fielded channel-rusticated base against the ashlar masonry of the ground floor.
City Museum of Ancient Art
The Palazzo Madama houses Turin's Museo Civico d'Arte Antica. The museum has a rare collection of artifacts from Gandhara, coming from the Italian excavations of the IsMEO at the Butkara Stupa in Pakistan. In winter 2007, it opened an exhibition titled "On the traces of Alexander, from Seleucia to Gandhara".