Prospetto del palazzo da via M. Vittoria


The ‘Collegio dei Nobili’

The building which now houses the Academy of Sciences was built in the 17th century by the Jesuits as a college for the sons of nobility. Construction began in 1679 and ended in 1687. The work was directed by Michelangelo Garove, although the design of the building is attributed to Guarino Guarini, the Baroque architect whose works in Torino include the Chapel of the Holy Shroud and Palazzo Carignano. In 1773 the Jesuit order was suppressed, and the building became a property of the Savoys, who in 1784 conceded the southern wing facing on Via Maria Vittoria to the newly constituted Academy of Sciences.

The facades of the building feature three orders adorning the imposing window frames. The pediments are particularly ornate, with designs with classic motifs on the ground floor, volutes on the first and geometric elements on the second.

The main entrance, designed by Antonio Maria Talucchi in 1824 when the Egyptian Museum was built, leads to an atrium that branches into two corridors; at the end of one of these is the formal staircase designed by Guarini, with two landings that overlook the central corridors.



Guarini’s staircase leads to the Sala dei Mappamondi, originally the theatre of the College. Today this hall is the heart of the Academy, and takes its name from the two large globes on either side of the pedimented apse. The hall was decorated by Giovannino Galliari in 1787. The figures depicted in the corner alcoves of the vaulted ceiling illustrate instruments of mechanics and mathematics (a pinion, a gear, a compass and geometric figures), geography and astronomy (a compass, an astrolabe and a map), physics and chemistry (a thermometer and a retort), and the natural sciences (a fossil and a crocodile).

The hall’s main entrance is surmounted by two allegorical figures representing the Academy’s motto, Veritas et Utilitas: Veritas, truth, is represented by a woman leaning on a globe, while Utilitas, utility, is characterised by a cornucopia and a caduceus. The Savoy crest is placed between the two figures.

Opposite the entrance is a apse within a pediment supported on wooden columns. The architrave bears the phrase Studiis Rerum Naturae et Math, while in the gable appear the intertwined initials of Victor Amadeus III, the King of Sardinia under whose aegis the Academy was instituted.

Two doors crowned by portraits of Pythagoras and Euclid lead from the Sala dei Mappamondi into the Reading Room. The walls of this room, like all others on this floor, are completely covered by wooden bookcases which house the oldest books in the collection. The central portion of the frescoed ceiling, inspired by ornithology, depicts birds, including owls, ostriches, peacocks and pelicans. On the sides are four roundels featuring a lion, a crocodile, rocks with fire and a narwhal.

The catalogue room: the last room, long and narrow, houses the historic card catalogues of the library, and the most important periodical publications of the Academy, including the Memorie and the Atti. Here too are numerous bibliographic references to assist in consulting the works, dictionaries and encyclopaedias.