In the Rooms of the Prince of Palazzo Reale, an itinerary specifically designed to illustrate, from an historical and conceptual point of view, the changes in the idea of luxury

Il percorso


The spectacle of beauty suffices, perhaps,
to cause all pains to sleep in us, poor mortals.

U. Foscolo

In the foyer, as well as in all other rooms of the palace, visitors can find a fountain pen and an open book where the name of the room and a poetic quote about Beauty have been written. The observer is allured by the way in which light sparkles through the contemporary objects made by glassmaker Venini, which enrich many rooms with the amazing beauty of luxury. Like a mirror, the glass floor enchants the vision of the entrance through materials and mastery of the prestigious company Crystalexe, present with its refined and original setting ups along the exhibition rooms. The aesthetic education of visitors starts with a journey that is essential in order to grasp the complexity of an idea that has been accompanying civilisation throughout its development.


Unburdened of her crown ablazing,
Does there--as {Beauty} 'fore us stand.
What here as Beauty we're perceiving,
Will first as {Truth} before us come to stand.

F. Schiller

The second room, the “Room of the Palace”, is dedicated to the way in which luxury was once understood, perceived and represented; the lavishness of clothes and the symbolic value of objects refer to the original link between luxury and power. Actually, the extraordinary and apparently unattainable beauty of these images immediately stresses the immense gap that divides those who exercise earthly and religious power – the former being managed in courts, the latter separating the eternal from the contingent and transcendence from immanence – from their subjects and humble believers. In the background, there are Saint Peter’s Basilica and the coronation of Napoleon, with the large gold profile of the Pope and the royal cloak of the crowned Emperor; in the foreground there are excellent eighteenth-century harps and bucklers from the Sforza Castle. The backlit amber vases by glassmaker Venini funnel the observer’s attention to the magnificence of power.


Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold
W. Shakespeare

The third room, the “Room of the Treasure”, narrates amazing beauty through precious objects of outstanding beauty: once regarded as unattainable by mere mortals, with the passing of time, outstanding luxury began to be considered more and more reachable by men and women through work, entrepreneurship and sacrifice. Here, precious jewels by contemporary excellent jewellery maker Roberto Coin converse with gold and ceramic watches from Poldi Pezzoli’s inestimable collection, defying time.


Mankind can live without science, without bread, and it only cannot live without beauty, for then there would be nothing at all to do in the world!
Science itself would not stand for a minute without beauty.

F. Dostoevkij

The fourth room, the “Room of Space-Time”, explores the entry of western civilisation into modernity, when science changed the way in which man understands time and space. Luxury does not concern only “material” things, but also those feelings and emotions man experiences when he relates to the world. We call time a luxury and believe that imagining distant travels is a luxury of the soul, don’t we? This room, which is dedicated to the idea of scientific perfection related to space and time, is dominated by a large telescope the lenses of which provide the observer with a magnified image of the universe. Damiani’s contemporary luxury watches mark the passing of time while sand flows through the glass.


The fifth room is turned into a “Cinema” with evocative images and words that tell visitors more about the journey of the exhibition.


The clothing of every high hope
is beauty

G. D’Annunzio

In the sixth room, the “Room of Light”, the glows and glares of light break through darkness and luxury becomes a spell that pierces through the night in a phantasmagoria of bright images that have the power to rescue mankind from the loneliness of cosmic infinitude. Clothes lit by Atelier Sangalli’s optical fibre open our eyes on a future full of highly imaginative objects and shapes related to the magical world of fashion.


To love at our leisure,
To live and to die
in that fair Country you remind me of!
There all is order and beauty,
Luxury, peace, and pleasure.

C. Baudelaire

We have now entered modernity, and here in the “Room of Vanity”, the focus is on the vanity that often characterises people’s approach to luxury. In the seventh room, director Liliana Cavani has set, in collaboration with Teatro alla Scala, the scenography of Manon Lescaut, a mise-en-scene aimed to suggest a refined way to live the vanity of luxury. Renowned artist Maurizio Galimberti’s photographic mosaic decorates the room in an original way, turning its walls into a contemporary play of evocative and spectacular images. Atelier Giuseppe Zanotti amazes visitors with shoe prototypes representing luxury in contemporary ideas of femininity. The room turns into the suite of a magnificent seven-star hotel where, among poet Gabriele D’Annunzio’s silk nightgowns (lent by the Fondazione Il Vittoriale degli Italiani) and brocades manufactured by Rubelli, champagne, caviar and treats are served on precious porcelain and silverware made by the renowned manufacturers of Casa Geminiano Cozzi e Zaramella. Past and present converse in a counter melody that introduces visitors to the beautiful jewels and majolica of the Museum of Decorative Arts of the Sforza Castle.


The fairy tale, with its spells, are the poets who make it true.
Do you know the land where the lemon-trees grow,
in darkened leaves the gold-oranges glow,
a soft wind blows from the pure blue sky,
the myrtle stands mute, and the bay-tree high?
Do you know it well?
That way! That way
I'd go with you, O, my beloved one!

J.W. Goethe

Nature is the great master that teaches man about the extraordinary, luxurious beauty of creation. The eight room, the “Room of the Secret Garden”, welcomes visitors with suggestions that make them reflect on the admirability of a natural world that should be understood in view of the secrecy with which beauty appears and disappears. But this world also needs to be protected, because the civilized history of man cannot develop but in close and clever connection with Nature. These are the marvels portrayed in Kirsty Mitchell’s Wonderland, a work that has captivated the whole world. In the garden, there is a fountain throwing wine in front of a nine liters bottle of Amarone Masi and allegorical shapes, pearly rose flamingos and fantastic animals.


Tis true the oracle declared, 'Let none
Venture to raise the veil till raised by me
That he who did so would behold the truth?


Does a mask really hide what is behind it, or is it a device to uncover what cannot be immediately seen? Is it a disguise or a reality that should be recognized? Is luxury really a superfluous, useless decoration, or is it a moralistically suppressed aspiration that conceals a cherished dream of beauty? The ninth room, the “Room of the Mask”, encourages visitors to reflect on what the ancients thought about luxury; actually, while condemning it on moral grounds, they were aware of the fact that luxury fulfils man’s eternal dreams of sensual delight ad precious beauty. Handmade masks made by Venice Atelier Antonia Sautter fluctuate in a purple space inspired to Stanley Kubrick’s movies, surrounded by enigmatic, precious jewels made in Venice and glass sculptures by great contemporary designers.


(Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know).

J. Keats

You only rode the merry-go-round once. Life was for the daring.
(C. Bukowski)

The tenth room, the “Room of the Carousel”, stages a performance of contemporary life: everything changes and stays the same, the old and the new run after each other like the wooden animals of a carousel. And it is not by chance that a carousel has been placed in the middle of this room, where luxury is told through fashion and different images turned into a play of associations in which truth and illusion merge. This is the history of tradition: models lent from Palazzo Morando narrate past and present in the twirl of life, exhibiting contemporary fashion.


Whether you come from heaven or from hell, who cares,
O Beauty!

C. Baudelaire

The roar of the tiger, a loan from the Museum of Natural Science, leads the observer to the entrance of the last room. At this point, the visitor should be thinking of the journey he has started in the first room, which has now led him to learn the aesthetic notions necessary to understand the meaning of “luxury”. The word “luxury” comes from two similar Latin words, “lux” and “luxuria”. In the last room of the exhibition – the one of the four pillars of Palazzo Reale – luxury is represented both as lux, that is the light that illuminates the knowledge of beauty, taste and style, and luxuria, i.e. excess and the sensuality that accompany the pleasures of life. Lux and luxuria, the Apollonian and the Dionysian essences of existence, are here interpreted through food, wine and the symbols of temptation; on an imperial table there are Gualtiero Marchesi’s world-famous gold leaf risotto enlighted by the precious gold red Amarone by Masi and a gold cage imprisoning a coiled reticulated python, another precious loan of the Museum of Natural History. Large statues, by contemporary sculptor Marcello Pierantoni, clothes and strange objects fill the room in a whirl of images and conflicting references, while videos curated by visionary film director Cesare Cicardini are projected on the walls, showing Apollonian and Dionysian images of luxury intended as an eccentric, fanciful and original life experience.

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