– The protagonists

The 1884 Commissione della Sezione di Arte Antica (Commission of the Ancient Art Section) was made up ofVittorio Avondo, Ottavio Balbo, Luigi Belli, Ernesto Bertone di Sambuy, Riccardo Brayda, Alfonso Breme di Sartirana, Edoardo Calandra, Luigi Cantù, Francesco Carandini, Alfredo D’Andrade, Adolfo Dalbesio, Augusto Ferri, Francesco Gamba, Ottavio Germano, Giuseppe Giacosa, Alberto Gilli, Francesco Ianetti, Carlo Nigra, Federico Pastoris, Giuseppe Pucci, Fernando Scarampi di Villanova, Guido San Martino di Valperga, Casimiro Teia, Pietro Vayra.

The plaque on the facade of the Casa di Chieri, placed there in 1925, bears the names of the protagonists of the creation of the Borgo Medievale..

Vittorio Avondo

Turin 1836 – 1910

The son of a professor of law at the University of Turin who came from Lozzolo, near Gattinara (VC), Vittorio Avondo was a painter and art connoisseur. He discovered his vocation at a very young age and studied painting in Tuscany, France and Switzerland, where he was a pupil of the romantic landscape painter Alexandre Calame, before moving to Rome in 1857. At the age of 29, already well-known as an expert on medieval art, he was asked to join the commission to help rearrange the Bargello Museum in Florence. When he returned to Turin in 1861, he took an active part in the cultural and artistic life of the city, working with the Circolo degli Artisti, the Società Promotrice delle Belle Arti, the Accademia Albertina and the City of Turin. He was linked to the landscape painters and to the group of intellectuals of the Rivara school of painting (named after the place of Carlo Pittara’s residence where they used to meet), including Federico Pastoris, Alfredo d’Andrade, Casimiro Teja and Giuseppe Giacosa. In 1872, he purchased the castle of Issogne, in the Valle d’Aosta, and devoted himself to its restoration and redecoration. Because of his knowledge of Piedmont’s medieval heritage, in 1883 he was asked to join the Art History Section for the construction of the Medieval village: he worked with D’Andrade on the project to build a complex illustrating the life and activities as well as the art and architecture of 15th-century Piedmont, drawing on the documentation of the Savoy castle inventories and what still existed in the area. A member of the Advisory Commission for National Monuments of Antiquity and Fine Arts, he worked to safeguard Piedmont’s monumental heritage; in particular, he was actively engaged in the restoration of the Cavassa House in Saluzzo, owned by Emanuele Tapparelli d’Azeglio, and Palazzo Silva in Domodossola. In 1890, he was appointed Director of the Civic Museum and, in 1899, became a member of the Committee for the National Museum of the Risorgimento. On his death, the City of Turin inherited his estate, with important acquisitions for the Civic Museum, while Issogne Castle went to the State.

Riccardo Brayda

Genoa 1849 – Turin 1911

Riccardo Brayda was a man of many talents: engineer, university lecturer, politician, designer, restorer and writer. He began his studies in Savona, at the Padri Scolopi, and continued in Genoa, at the Royal Navy College, before obtaining, in 1872, a Licence Diploma in Pure Mathematics at the Real Scuola di applicazione per allievi Ingegneri in Turin and, in 1874, a Degree in Civil Engineering. In 1879 he embarked on his university career, as assistant to Angelo Reycend’s Architecture Chair, and continued teaching until 1901, when he decided to devote himself to private practice and collaboration with the city administration. He was a municipal councillor, a member of the Management Committee of the Civic Museum, of the Commission for the naming of streets and of the Commission for the conservation of monuments of art and antiquities for the Province of Turin. For the Medieval Village, Brayda collaborated in the research and reconnaissance for the range of models to be reproduced and was coordinator of the building works, following in particular the design of the wall, the entrance tower, the Houses of Bussoleno, Frossasco, Alba and the Fortress (together with the engineer Pucci-Baudana).

From 1902 onwards he further intensified his public commitment: he was appointed Councillor for Special Services-Public Works and became a member of the Urban and Rural Police Commission and of the Turin Exhibition Committee in 1911.

At the same time, Brayda did not give up his work as a designer: in Turin two of his works are the Hospice of Charity (Palazzo degli Stemmi) and the Giaccone House (in Corso Matteotti).


Alfredo D’Andrade

Lisbon 1839 – Genoa 1915

Born into a wealthy merchant family in Lisbon, Alfredo D’Andrade moved to Genoa in 1854 to pursue his mercantile activities. However, he found himself attracted to the figurative arts and architecture. After graduating from the Accademia Ligustica, he studied painting in Geneva with the landscape painter Alexandre Calame, where he met Vittorio Avondo and Cesare Bertea, and was introduced by Fontanesi to the more modern Corot and Daubigny, in Creys in the Dauphiné. The sixties were years dedicated to painting, of intense studies and cultural exchanges with the Tuscan Macchiaioli, with the Ligurian Grey School of Rayper, Luxoro De Avendaño, and with the Piedmont artists of the Rivara School: Vittorio Avondo, Carlo Pittara, Federico Pastoris. During this period, he also began to develop an interest in medieval architecture, with the discovery of monuments in the area, their study, preservation and restoration. From 1871 onwards, D’Andrade worked with Vittorio Avondo on the restoration of Issogne castle and developed an analytical, philological and respectful method of approach. For the Borgo medievale project, which saw him at the head of the Art History Commission, extensive use was made of the campaign of surveys of late medieval Piedmont monuments that he had already begun in the previous decades. He then oversaw the restoration of numerous medieval buildings in Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta: the castle of Verres, that of Pavone Canavese (purchased by him in 1885), and the castle of Fénis. In 1886 he was appointed Royal Delegate for the conservation of monuments in Piedmont and Liguria and, in 1891, Director of the Regional Office for Monuments in Piedmont and Liguria. He also took part in the work of the Commissions set up for the restoration of important monuments (Venice, Milan Cathedral, Chillon Castle, Florence city centre) and for major International Exhibitions at the turn of the century. In 1911, together with Carlo Nigra, he designed the Piedmont Pavilion at the International Exhibition in Rome, which repeated the formula already experimented at the Medieval Village with the invention of a Valle d’Aosta castle made up of the exact replica of elements from the regional architectural and decorative repertoire. He is buried in the small church of San Pietro, within the walls of Pavone Castle.


Giuseppe Giacosa

Colleretto Parella (now Collaretto Giacosa, TO) 1847 – 1906

He studied law and embarked on a career as a lawyer, which he soon abandoned to devote himself to his literary vocation.

In Turin, he frequented the young people of the “Piedmont scapigliatura” movement: G. Camerana, Igino Tarchetti and Emilio Praga.
In 1872, he began to reap his first theatrical successes, which encouraged him to pursue a career as a playwright, as well as a man of letters and journalist. In the wake of the success of Una partita a scacchi (A game of chess), performed in 1873, he wrote several dramas with a medieval setting, such as Trionfo d’amore (Triumph of love) (1875), Il fratello d’armi (Brother in arms) (1877), Il Conte Rosso (The Red Count) (1880), and La signora di Challant (The lady of Challant) (1891 – performed by Eleonora Duse and later by Sarah Bernhardt). His interest in the Middle Ages also emerges from his essays on history and travel: Il castello di Issogne in Val d’Aosta (1884), and Castelli valdostani e canavesani (1897), closely related to his interest in the Piedmont mountains. In 1884, he gave lectures on the Fortress during the Exhibition and his was the introduction to the Catalogue, the guide to visiting the Borgo. He was also a well-known librettist for Puccini: Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1903).


Carlo Nigra

Castellaro de’ Giorgi (PV) 1856 – Miasino (TO) 1942

A descendant of a leading Canavese family, Carlo Nigra was a passionate researcher of documents from the past and a scholar of monuments.
In 1880 he graduated from the Turin Polytechnic and in 1882 he joined the group of young architects who collaborated in the construction of the Borgo Medievale, becoming the “official photographer” of the reconnaissance expeditions in Piedmont and Val d’Aosta, led by Alfredo D’Andrade.
At the same time as his restoration assignments on medieval castles and fortifications (particularly important were those of Montalto Dora castle, with D’Andrade, and then Malgrà, in Rivarolo Canavese and Bardassano), he carried out detailed studies of the monuments of eastern Piedmont, and also worked on villa design projects (on Lake Orta).
Thanks to his studies on castles and medieval fortifications, he was commissioned to restore numerous buildings, including, of particular importance, the castles of Malgrà in Rivarolo Canavese, Bardassano and the church of S. Tommaso in Briga Novarese. Author of many studies and publications on the Piedmont region, in 1934 he wrote Il Borgo ed il Castello Medioevali (The Medieval Village and Castle), for the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the complex. In the Borgo, he was particularly involved in the construction of the Casa di Chieri, of the tavern courtyard, and of the Casa di Borgofranco, Malgrà and Pinerolo. After 1884, he continued to look after the museum as curator.


Casimiro Teja

Turin 1830 – 1897

Casimiro Teja studied at the Accademia Albertina in Turin and soon made a name for himself as a caricaturist, working for the liberal magazine Il Fischietto.
In 1856, he joined Pasquino, the most important Italian satirical newspaper founded by Giuseppe Augusto Cesana and Giovanni Piacentini, and three years later become its editor. His satire targeted politicians, but also doctors, professionals and journalists: his drawings are reminiscent of those of the French Cham, a collaborator of the Charivari during the Second Empire, and of Paul Gavarni, caricaturist and illustrator, but are distinguished by the variety and bizarre nature of the inventions with which he wittily commented on major Italian and foreign political events, literary customs and public habits.
In 1884, as part of the Ancient Art Section of the General Exhibition, he was a member of the sub-committee in charge of the shows and celebrations for the inauguration.


Federico Pastoris di Casalrosso

Asti 1837 – Turin 1884

A descendant of the Asti nobility Conti di Casalrosso, a family of illustrious mathematicians, Federico Pastoris preferred to study art, attending the Accademia Albertina in Turin. In 1863 he met Alfredo D’Andrade and in that same year began to frequent the painters of the Rivara group. He travelled with D’Andrade through Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta, surveying the monumental heritage; from his visit to the castles of Fénis and Issogne he drew inspiration for paintings of evocative costume scenes set in the rooms of those medieval residences (“I Signori di Challant“, “Il cortile del maniero di Issogne“, now in the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna in Turin). In the years that followed, he developed his landscape studies in the Valsesia countryside, in which he carried out freer and more personal research into light and atmospheric effects. In the meantime, he took a keen interest in antiques and the decorative arts. In 1873, he was appointed Superintendent of the Professional Drawing Schools in Turin, the importance of which was growing as a result of a desire to relaunch the artistic industry. For the General Exhibition of 1884 Pastoris contributed the design of the elegant Pavilion of the City of Turin and directed the work on the pictorial decorations of the Borgo Medievale, carried out by Giuseppe Rollini and Luigi Vacca.


Edoardo Calandra

Turin 1852-1911

Edoardo Calandra studied painting at the Accademia Albertina in Turin and with Enrico Gamba. He focused on historical subjects, including because of a stay in Paris, where he became acquainted with the most modern trends in the figurative arts. Around 1880, he came into contact with the group of literary figures who orbited around the publisher Casanova: Giovanni Camerana, Emilio Praga, Giuseppe Giacosa, Camillo Boito, Giovanni Verga and Edmondo De Amicis. This first resulted in his working as an illustrator of literary works and then as both a writer and illustrator – his were the historical stories La Bell’Alda and Reliquie, written in 1884. In that same year he collaborated with the Commission in charge of the design of the Borgo Medievale. In the early Nineties he turned his attention to the theatre, before returning to fiction and finally publishing his masterpiece, the novel La bufera, in 1899.


Alberto Maso Gilli

Chieri 1840 – Calvi dell’Umbria 1894

Alberto Maso Gilli trained at the Accademia Albertina in Turin, a pupil of Enrico Gamba and Andrea Gastaldi. He devoted himself to history painting, participating from 1860 in the exhibitions of the Società Promotrice di Belle Arti. His greatest success, however, was to come from his work as an engraver, in particular as an etcher: in this role he collaborated with “L’Arte in Italia” and “L’Art”, a newspaper published in Paris, to which city he moved in 1873; here, in 1878, he won first prize in Engraving at the International Exhibition. In 1881 he returned to Turin and occupied the drawing chair at the Accademia Albertina and, on the death of Federico Pastoris, succeeded him as Superintendent of the Drawing Schools of Turin. Bound by friendship to Vittorio Avondo, he collaborated with him in the refurbishment of Issogne Castle; for the General Exhibition of 1884 he took part in the work of the Commission that oversaw the creation of the Borgo Medievale, working on the design of furniture and furnishings for the Fortress. He wrote the preface to the official Catalogue of the Art History Section, in which he illustrated the cultural motivations and construction criteria used by the creators of the Borgo Medievale, and was responsible for organising conferences and theatrical performances.
The following year, Gilli moved to Rome and was appointed Director of the Regia Calcografia (Royal Chacolgraphy), where he promoted the creation of an engraving school and encouraged the reproduction of contemporary works of art in print.



BORGO MEDIEVALE – Viale Virgilio, 107 (Parco del Valentino) 10126 Torino


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