Italians at the Court of Siam: Celebrating 150 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Italy. A Talk by Paolo Piazzardi



At the dawn of the 20th century, the West associated Siam largely with myths, legends, exoticism, colorful sceneries and beautiful silks. Alas, Italian travellers’ interests were firmly fixed on the Near East, rather than faraway Asia. The unexplored and mysterious world of Siam revealed itself after two royal visits to Italy by King Chulalongkorn, respectively in 1897 and 1907. He was fascinated by the Renaissance style of Florence, the Baroque of Rome and the flourishing gothic of Venice, Bangkok’s twin city in Italy. King Chulalongkorn invited to Siam Italian architects, painters and sculptors he met during his European visits, with a clear and forwarding-looking mission: to transform Bangkok into a modern capital city, with a “typical Italian flair”. Under his auspices and the artistic guidance of Prince Naris, Siam became home to a high-profile community of Italians. By royal appointment, 35 masters, including architects, painters and sculptors, were called mainly from Turin, Piedmont’s provincial capital where the Italian Royal family resided, and became “Italians at the Court of Siam”. The composer and anthropologist Col. Emilio Gerini (Phra Sarasat Phonlakhan) co-founded the illustrious Siam Society. Other notable Italians like Carlo Allegri, Mario Tamagno, Annibale Rigotti, Ercole Manfredi, Cesare Ferro, Carlo Rigoli (of the 'Art Nouveau style'), the composer Alberto Nazzari, Galileo Chini, Vittorio Novi, his nephew Rodolfo Nolli, and Corrado Feroci (Silpa Bhirasri), “the father of modern Thai art” and founder of Silpakorn University, wrote a story of true friendship that endures to this day between Thailand and Italy.

Prof. Paolo Piazzardi has served as the Cultural Attaché of the Italian Embassy in Thailand for two consecutive terms, following postings to Amman and Los Angeles. Among his publications are Italians at The Court of Siam, Elements of Thai architecture, The Emerald Buddha Temple and Thai-Vatican relations since WWII. He is the former President of the Dante Alighieri Society and Vice President of The Rotary Club of Thailand. Currently he combines the roles of writer and foreign correspondent (listed in the directory of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and lives in Bangkok part of the year.

Date: Thursday, 7 June 2018
Time: 7.30 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

Office Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:00am. – 5:00pm.

The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2017-2018 Lecture Series.