Multimedia film director and artist Yi Zhou is set to mint the first-ever royal nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, based on the story of Italy's House of Savoy. The digital works are made in collaboration with the House of Savoy's (non-reigning) descendent, Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, Prince of Venice.
The House of Savoy is known for playing a pivotal role in the unification of Italy, or the "Risorgimento," over 150 years prior. Its then king, Victor Emmanuel II, acted as a symbol of the movement. Together with the Sardinia-Piedmont premier Camillo Benso, known as the Count of Cavour, revolutionary activist Giuseppe Mazzini, and general Giuseppe Garibaldi — the "brain," "heart," and "sword" of the Risorgimento, the four men led the creation of a modern, unitary Italian state in 1871. This ended the division of the Italian peninsula into many independent city-states since the Middle Ages.
Cerimonia di insediamento del nuovo Parlamento [Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy and the first Italian Parliament] |Painting by Domenico Induno (1815-1878)
While further NFTs telling the story of House of Savoy will come in later stages, Zhou's initial launch consists of digital avatars of Queen Marie-José, the last queen of Italy. Marie-José married Prince Umberto of Italy in 1930. When World War II began, she served in the Red Cross in Libya for a time, lobbied for help for Belgium when it was under Nazi occupation and secretly negotiated with opponents of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
Although the House of Savoy were once heroes of the Risorgimento, their descendent, the disgraced King Victor Emmanuel III, became associated with fascism and Mussolini. Due to growing discontent and unpopularity among ordinary Italians, Victor Emmanuel III abdicated in 1946. Both Umberto and Marie-José had ascended the throne but only held their monarchial titles for a little over a month before a referendum abolished the monarchy and led to the creation of the Italian Republic.
Marie-José, last Queen of Italy | Photographed by Ghitta Carell (1899-1972)
The first portion of the works consists of portraits and avatars of the late Queen, which are designed for metaverse interactions. In addition, a portion of the NFT sales proceeds will be donated to charities supported by the House of Savoy. Artist Yi Zhou spoke to Cointelegraph in an exclusive interview about the upcoming NFT drop.
Marie-José, last Queen of Italy | Photographer unknown
Cointelegraph: Who are some of the kings and queens that will be featured in these House of Savoy NFTs?
Yi Zhou: We will do a whole world; we will start with Marie-José, which is going to be the first figure we will promote because she has an interesting story that really intertwines with [fighting] fascism [during WWII]. It was an interesting turning point in Italian history. So I felt it was interesting to dig a little deeper on that.
CT: How exactly will they play a role in the Metaverse? Will players be able to say, visit a digital Quirinal Palace [former official residence of Italian monarchs] in addition to engaging with the avatars?
YZ: Yeah, I think this is the purpose, to be able to create exclusive assets around these people as well as venues that can be recreated and for people to have an experience. And I like the contrast between the royalty and venues with [versus] the NFT world. It's an interesting clash.
CT: There are many mediums of expression for artwork. What inspired you to launch your art pieces as NFTs?
YZ: I just think it's going to be the future — to be able to work in those mediums and offer something exclusive to the buyer. I've seen the auctions recently, you know, the Christie’s auctions the other day; the piece that was sold for $29 million. I see many friends of mine, [including] artists in China as well, like [performance and contemporary artist] Zhang Huan, who is also big in promoting the NFT world.
CT: Do you plan on incorporating your future artworks as NFTs?
YZ: Yeah, I think the idea of building a world like that is to explore and keep on growing, to generate a whole universe around that.
CT: What motivated you, in particular, to focus on telling the story of Queen Marie-José and the House of Savoy?
YZ: It's from my relationship with the Italian prince [Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia] and his wife [Princess Clotilde Courau]. We have been friends for many years. I met them through Diane von Fürstenberg; she's a fashion designer. I met her at a flash mob in Paris. I was one of her special guests, together with the princess [Clotilde Courau] and another journalist called Mademoiselle [Miss] Agnès. We were just dancing, and I felt the Princess was rubbing against me, and I thought she wanted to be friends. She gives me her number, and she introduced me to her husband, and we shot two commercials together. This included a piece with [actor] Jackie Chan for the United Nations regarding climate change. And in Rome, with him and her, we shot a commercial for the sunglasses Persol. I wanted to film them as that was the time when Prince William and Kate Middleton got married, as I felt there was a lot of attention for royals. Of course, they [Prince Filiberto and Princess Courau] are no longer reigning royals, but I still thought it was interesting to bring them into this world.
So we became friends and since then, we stayed in touch. We did a clothing brand together, which is called Global Intuition. And now we have been developing the Royal House of Savoy project since 2019. It took us a long time to brainstorm because they [The Royal House of Savoy] have a thousand years of history. So I wanted to know what part exactly we can focus on. After studying all the [inaudible], HBO series, Netflix shows, and me and the prince [working together] — prince for Christmas, prince in the castle, with bookshelves! I thought it was interesting to build something, starting at a closer part of history, and then we can always push back in time and go back to [the] Renaissance, and other periods. They have gone through so many catastrophes, and I think it will be so compelling to tell their stories. It will be a story that the prince wants to tell the world.
CT: Would you like to include a mission statement about your artwork and how cryptocurrencies/NFTs can help you accomplish that?
YZ: Yeah, I was actually invited to an event in the crypto world a couple of years ago. It was started by the founder of this auction house in Italy that models after Charitybuzz. And they wanted me to be the ambassador of their artwork. But I got busy with my brand and other projects and had to withdraw. Now, however, it's interesting to see this [NFTs] trend growing, and I look forward to contributing to it through my voice and imagination and the IPs [intellectual properties] we are going to create.
Director Yi Zhou | Source: Yi Zhou