The Berzieri Thermal Baths: Art Nouveau from Bangkok to Salsomaggiore
The Berzieri Thermal Baths Palace in Salsomaggiore, Emilia Romagna, was decorated mainly by Galileo Chini (1873-1956) and by his collaborators at Fornaci di San Lorenzo, the ceramics and glasswork factory he had founded in Tuscany in the early 1900s.
Chini was an architect, painter, set designer, and ceramist from Florence, and is considered a master of Art Nouveau – a style that Italians also call “Liberty”, and which Chini closely associated with the concept of freedom.
Freedom of expression, non-conformism with crystallized art clichés, openness to innovation (the name “Art Nouveau” stems from this ideal) and to the unexpected: in his work, Chini strived to confront these invincible urges.
He also championed the freedom to draw inspiration from faraway and exotic traditions. He stayed in Bangkok from 1911 and 1913, as a guest of the king of Siam (now Thailand), who deeply admired him; once he recognized firsthand the Oriental roots of Art Nouveau, he was enthralled with local art.
When he was in charge of the decorations for the Berzieri Thermal Baths, between 1919 and 1924, his eyes were still full of the beauty of Siam and of the splendid embellishments he had seen in the country’s architecture.
Sky-blue lions and scantly clad girls are all around in the palace, to this day, telling his story of passion and freedom.