On the occasion of the show held at the Medici Villa La Petraia (Florence) for the 150th anniversary of Italian Unity, this volume explores King Vittorio Emanuele II’s connections with Florence between 1861 and 1871. La Petraia, a property of the House of Savoy, was occupied by Rosa Vercellana, Countess of Mirafiore, remembered as “La Bella Rosina.” She did not become the King’s morganatic wife until 1869. The villa was chosen as the starting point for an exploration of the private pursuits and passions of Vittorio Emanuele II as King of Italy. Backed by scrupulous documentary research, the narrative begins with the Italian Agrarian, Industrial, and Artistic Exposition of 1861. This “microhistory” is a useful thread for recreating the canvas of the broader history of political and social change in newly united Italy. The book illustrates the King’s choice of landscape paintings, Ginori porcelain, and furniture for his residences—all of which reflect the taste for comfort more characteristic of the upper bourgeoisie than that of the courtly tradition. Documentation is provided on the major architectural remodeling the Royal Stables of Porta Romana during the Savoy period, and on the boldly innovative iron and glass roof of the Petraia courtyard, turned into a ballroom for the party to celebrate the engagement of Emanuele di Mirafiore, son of the King and La Bella Rosina, with Blanche de Larderel.
The volume, prefaced by Cristina Acidini, is enhanced by many catalogue entries and documentary appendixes. In addition to essays by the curators, there are contributions by scholars including Fausto Barbagli, Silvia Ciappi, Anna Floridia, Giorgio Galletti, Rosanna Morozzi, and Claudio Paolini.PDF format