The question was, What is it?
Reader Jay was correct. This is one in the large bank of umbrella holders in the Palazzo Reale (unfortunately their calendar is not up to date and does not advertise the exhibit we went to see, Jackson Pollock and the Irascibles. Largely borrowed from the Whitney Museum, it was a quite interesting show about the New York School of avant garde artists in the 1940’s, ’50’s and early ’60’s.
Anyway, here is what the whole umbrella ‘stand’ looks like:
The fact that there are few keys and no umbrellas suggests to me that perhaps this was something that seemed like a good idea once, but proved not to be. In any case, I thought it was interesting, and, in its way, lovely (or at least rhythmic). It certainly seemed appropriate to stare at it for a while after seeing the Pollock exhibit. So I did.