A Summer Souvenir of Superga

Souvenir spoon with view of Turin [Superga], late 19th century
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Turin was never a major stop on the Grand Tour. During the great age of pre-aviation tourism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the city served as a gateway for travelers entering Italy from the north before heading to more popular destinations such as Venice, Florence, or Rome. Thus, apart from devotional objects produced for pilgrims venerating the Shroud of Turin, relatively few typical souvenir items such as postcards, photo albums, painted porcelain, or other knickknacks representing the Piedmontese capital survive in public collections.

This souvenir spoon at the Metropolitan Museum in New York is a charming exception. The enameled bowl of the spoon bears a view of Filippo Juvarra’s church of Superga (1716-31) on a hill overlooking the city. The view prominently includes the funicular railway connecting the city (at 225 meters elevation) with the summit (at 672 meters). Since the railway opened in 1884, and the spoon was donated to the museum in 1900, we can date it to the final sixteen years of the nineteenth century. The top of the spoon’s handle features a bull, the symbol of the city of Turin.

Other spoons donated with the same extensive collection represent traditional tourist highlights in Italy and elsewhere in Europe: Rome (St. Peter’s, the Colosseum), Venice (Rialto, Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s), Florence (Palazzo Medici, Duomo, Piazza della Signoria), Naples (Bay of Naples, Pompeii), Potsdam, Dresden, Seville, Madrid, and many others. Meant for display rather than use, such objects still perform their intended function as reminders (“souvenirs”) of summer vacations long ago.

* * *

Related Reading

In 2016, the Consiglio regionale del Piemonte presented an exhibition of ceramics featuring views of Piedmont, Il Piemonte sui piatti. The exhibition catalogue may be downloaded as a PDF from the Internet Archive. See p. 28 of the catalogue for plates with views of Superga.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Panorama of Turin

Torino, Panorama generale

Torino, Panorama generale, ca. 1914
Source: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv / Fotograf: Unbekannt / Fel_031762-RE / Public domain mark
CLICK TO ENLARGE

The rich online image collections of the ETH Zürich hold countless treasures, including aerial photographs, historic bookplates, the collection of the Fotostiftung Schweiz, historic scientific instruments, field research photography in geology and botany, and historic photographs of buildings in Zurich. Many images are available with some type of Creative Commons license, or are in the public domain. A great deal of the collection consists of postcards, with some unusual examples such as this five-part accordion-folded panorama of Turin dating to around 1914.

The photographs used in the panorama were apparently taken from the Monte dei Cappuccini, on the east side of the Po River just outside the historic center of the city. The leftmost image looks south-southwest, upstream along the Po, toward the Castello del Valentino. Moving from left to right and facing westward, the images successively pan from southwest to north-northwest, while the final, rightmost image looks northeast toward the basilica of Superga. Near the right edge of the central image, the spire of the Mole Antonelliana punctuates the skyline. Together, the five photographs pan well over 180°. The Po runs along the foreground of the entire panorama, while the Alps form a continuous backdrop, a vivid illustration of Turin as the “città subalpina.”

The ETH image archive also holds similar panoramas of numerous other cities and landscapes. Besides many variations on Alpine panoramas, these include Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, Lugano, Lyon, Palermo, Valletta, and Oahu!

A Souvenir Shroud of Turin

Replica of the Shroud of Turin, possibly 19th century, Italian, painted cloth, H. 7 3/4″ x W. 21″ (19.7 x 53.3 cm)
Gift of Coudert Brothers, 1888
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 88.3.45

With Easter approaching, the annual sindonology season is upon us. This year’s curiosity comes from the vast, encyclopedic collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: a miniature replica of the Shroud of Turin. While the original relic is around 4.5 meters long, this small version measures just over a half-meter in length.

According to the museum’s catalogue record, the replica is painted on the cloth and was acquired in 1888. The image of the Shroud – complete with the burn marks from the fire in Chambéry in 1532 – is surrounded with a floral border, an inscription, images of symbols and instruments of the passion at the corners, and two baskets of flowers at either side. The textile probably dates to the nineteenth century, and must have been intended as a devotional souvenir for pious pilgrims to the venerated relic.

The Metropolitan Museum also holds a photographic souvenir of the Shroud of Turin in its collection. The negative image of the face on the textile was taken by Giuseppe Enrie and dates to the 1931 ostension of the Shroud. The museum’s website offers an extremely informative catalogue entry on the photo and its context in Enrie’s career.

The video below gives a glimpse of the souvenirs available for contemporary pilgrims to the relic.


A souvenir stand at a recent ostension of the Shroud