What is now Palazzo Madama in Piazza Castello, practically opposite the Royal Palace, was originally a city gate, was made into a fortress in the Middle Ages, and then became the castle of the princes of Acaja. The civic collections of ancient art were formed separately elsewhere from 1863, to collect and pass on the historical and artistic heritage of Turin and Piedmont. The respective fates of the ancient building and the century-old collections were joined in 1934. In the meantime, the building had been, among other things, the seat of the first Senate of the unified Italian state.
The present-day museum, which is divided into several routes dedicated to history, architecture and collections, has over seventy thousand works of painting, sculpture and decorative arts from the Byzantine period to the 19th century. The development of European art from the early Middle Ages to the Baroque is also illustrated by illuminated manuscripts, majolica and porcelain, gold and silver, furniture and textiles. Among the most famous works are a Portrait of a Man by Antonello da Messina, the codex of the Très belles Heures de Notre Dame by Jean de Berry, and a series of artistic objects from the Cabinet of Wonders of Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy.
The Senate Hall, the Medieval Court and the Atelier Hall host temporary exhibitions. The museum is incorporated with the GAM-Galleria Civic Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Museum of Oriental Art as part of The Turin Museums Foundation.