Some chess references of the House of Savoy in Turin of 16th century


Recently I tracked an article under the title A duke, a dwarf, and a game of chess by Robin O'Bryan. It's published in Source: Notes in the History of Art Vol. 34, No. 2 (Winter 2015), pp. 27-33 and can be found in [free read after subscription-just 3 pages of clear text].

Main topic of the article is the above painting made by Giacomo Vighi, ca 1572 in Turin, presenting Charles Emmanuel I with a court-dwarf, commissioned by Charles' father Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy. According to the author: "The resultant effect is of a chessboard, the entire space functioning as a mise-en-scéne for the prince and the dwarf, who appear as pieces in a game of chess." It seemed to me a little extreme, however the author mentions another chess connection of Philibert...

The above engraving on wood is by Johann Criegher (1577) copied from one of few years earlier by Giovanni Caracca. It's a plan of Torino during the Philibert's years. Philibert had commissioned the architect Ascanio Vitozzi to reform the city of Turin. According to O'Bryan: "While the grid configuration pays literal homage to Turin’s foundations on a Roman castrum, the two-dimensional visual effect is reminiscent of a chessboard. Here, the artist has given concrete expression to the relationship between the chessboard—scacciera in Italian—and the city as a piazzaforte (strong- hold), the cognate scacciere used to denote a military zone." Even if it isn't so accurate, it does resemble with a chessboard with a quick look.

Continuing further, a chess relation is also mentioned about the mother of Charles, Duchess Marguerite of Valois, as a granddaughter of Louise of Savoy. MS Francais 143, an early [and maybe most famous] copy of the Livre des échecs amoureux moralisés by Evrart de Conty, was illuminated by Robinet Testard for Louisse of Savoy.


Nice pictures and interesting story.


Just beautiful!! And, as always, original and fascinating. Always a good day when you post something. 

My humble thanks. Simaginfan.


If Philibert actually built Turin as a chessboard is something!

Some more info on Turin in but it's in Italian and I couldn't track some big chess reference. Only something like "rispetto alla scacchiera ortogonale"


Well the map looks like 8x8 square!!


"The initial chessboard pattern (castrum) of Turin’s layout, which had been started under the Romans, was continued and refined by a succession of such celebrated architects as Filippo Juvarra, Guarino Guarini, and Bemardo Vittone under the Savoy dynasty’s directive." in Southern Europe: International Dictionary of Historic Places, p. 725

...however these three architects are later to Philibert, of 17th or 18th century.

And here can be found some drawings of Augusta Taurinorum [Roman Turin], where the chessboard pattern can be seen. However it doesn't mention when or by whom these drawings were made.


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