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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Italian Room

Photo: Nathaniel Willson

Italian Room

ca. 1575-1600

The rich warm glow of the wood-paneled room beckons you into the northern Lombard town of Chiavenna, where this room was built around 1550-1600. Called stüa in the local dialect, this style of room typically contained a large stone or tile-covered stove around which the family would gather on cold nights. Beyond their original function, richly decorated stüe were status symbols serving as a "state room" in noble houses. Fluted pilasters topped with classical capitals--based on Greek and Roman design but filtered through the lens of the Renaissance--are the primary wall decoration. The northern European overtones of these motifs remind us that Chiavenna was an important customs station and trade center at the juncture of two valleys leading north through the Alps. The room was created during a period of prosperity and architectural growth when the town was ruled by the Grisons, today a canton of Switzerland.

The installation of this room represents an extensive conservation project. Staff has undertaken thorough documentation, repair, cleaning and judicious inpainting of its approximately 145 components. Following modern installation practices, the panels are hung within a metal frame using existing nail holes. The wood panels are remarkably intact. The windows and fireplaces are later additions. The new additions of chestnut flooring and a stone fireplace surround are based on historical Chiavenna designs and materials.

Spruce, willow, and fir
171 9/16in. x 200 5/16 in. (435.8cm x 508.8 cm)
Gift of Richard Louis Brown in memory of John Yeon
Provenance: Renato Bacchi, mid-1930s; Adolph Loewi, Venice and Los Angeles, California by 1939-1945/6; John Yeon (d. 1994), San Francisco and Portland, 1945/6-94; donated to Seattle Art Museum by Richard L. Brown
Photo: Nathaniel Willson
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Julie Emerson discusses function & design of the Italian Room


Published ReferencesIshikawa, Chiyo et al. "Seattle Art Museum Downtown." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 2007, illus. pp. 42-43

La "stua" nella Rezia italiana Die Stube in italienischen Raten, Accademia del pizzocchero di Teglio, 2011, pg. 72 - 73

"Seattle Art Museum: Bridging Cultures." London: Scala Publishers Ltd. for the Seattle Art Museum, 2007, p. 54 (not illus.)

Dorman, Nicholas, Italian Room Installation (video) Seattle Art Museum, Presented February 2, 2007

Boorstein, James, A stua of SAM's own: the story of the Italian Room through a Conservator's Eye, Seattle Art Museum, 2007

Ishikawa, Chiyo. "Seattle Art Museum." In Italian Treasures in the U.S.: An Itinerary of Art. Edited by Renato Miracco. Rome: Gangemi Editore International Publishing, 2015, p. 200.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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