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Andrea Palladio

Andrea Palladio

The buildings of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) were the most refined of the Renaissance period. Through them and his book on architectural theory he became the most influential architect in the history of Western art.

Roman architecture of the early 16th century had developed a mature classicism in the work of Donato Bramante and his followers. With the sack of Rome in 1527 young architects, such as Michele Sanmicheli and Jacopo Sansovino, brought the style to northern Italy. Andrea Palladio with further study of ancient Roman architecture, refined the classical mode to produce an elegant architecture befitting the opulent culture of the Veneto in the third quarter of the century. The aristocratic, mercantile society of Venice desired a splendid and sumptuous art to express pride in its accomplishments.

Andrea di Pietro dalla Gondola, called Andrea Palladio, was born in Padua on Nov. 30, 1508. In 1521 he was apprenticed for 6 years to a local stonecutter; 3 years later he broke the contract and moved to Vicenza, where he was immediately enrolled in the guild of masons and stonecutters. His first opportunity came about 1538 while he was working as a stone carver on the reconstruction of the Villa Cricoli, near Vicenza, owned by the local humanist Giangiorgio Trissino, who had a classical school for young Vicenzan nobility. Trissino recognized Andrea's ability and took him into his home and educated him. Trissino gave Andrea his humanist name Palladio as a reference to the wisdom of the Greek goddess Pallas Athene.

Early Architecture

Probably Palladio's first independent design was the Villa Godi (ca. 1538-1542) at Lonedo. Its simplified, stripped-down style reveals very little influence of ancient architecture, but its emphasis on clean-cut cubical masses foreshadows his mature style. The Casa Civena (1540-1546) in Vicenza, with its paired Corinthian pilasters above the ground-floor arcade, is more in the Roman High Renaissance manner, perhaps inspired by the publications of Sebastiano Serlio.

In 1541 Trissino took Palladio to Rome to study the ancient monuments. At this time Palladio began a magnificent series of drawings of ancient buildings. The incomplete Palazzo Thiene (commissioned 1542, constructed ca. 1545-1550) in Vicenza is in the style of Giulio Romano, particularly in its heavy rustication of the ground floor and the massive stone blocks superimposed on the window frames of the main story. As Giulio Romano was in Vicenza in 1542, it is possible that he contributed to the design, since Palladio was still designated as a mason in the contract. The grandiose project, never completed, for the Villa Thiene (before 1550) at Quinto was influenced by Palladio's study of ancient Roman sanctuaries and baths. The only completed pavilion has a temple front facade, his first use of a temple front to decorate a villa, which became a hallmark of his style.

For many years the city of Vicenza had been considering how to refurbish its Gothic law court, the Palazzo della Ragione. In 1546 Palladio's project to surround the old building with loggias was approved, and he was commissioned to erect one bay in wood as a model. In 1547 and 1549 Palladio made further trips to Rome. In 1549 he began to construct two superimposed, arcaded loggias around the Palazzo della Ragione (completed 1617), known ever since as the Basilica Palladiana. Each bay of the loggias is composed of an arch flanked by lintels supported by columns. The motif of the arch flanked by lintels, although it was first used by Bramante and was popularized in Serlio's book, has been called in English the Palladian motif since Palladio used it on the Basilica.

Mature Style

Palladio created on the mainland around Venice a magnificent series of villas for the Venetian and Vicenzan nobility. The most renowned is the Villa Capra, or the Rotonda (1550-1551, with later revisions), near Vicenza. It is a simplified, cubelike mass capped by a dome over the central, round salon and has identical temple front porches on the four sides of the block. The absolute symmetry of the design was unusual in Palladian villas; the architect explained that it permitted equal views over the countryside around the hill on which the villa sits.

The city of Vicenza was almost completely rebuilt with edifices after Palladio's designs. The Palazzo Chiericati (now the Museo Civico) is a two-story structure facing on the square with a continuous Doric colonnade on the ground floor after the idea of an ancient Roman forum; the walled and fenestrated central section of the upper floor is flanked by Ionic colonnades. The facade of the Palazzo Iseppo Porto (ca. 1550-1552) is based on Bramante's Palazzo Caprini in Rome, but the plan is Palladio's version of an ancient Roman house with an entrance atrium and a large peristyle, or court, on the central axis behind the building block.

In 1554 Palladio made his last trip to Rome and in the same year published a fine guidebook to the antiquities of Rome, Le antichità di Roma. During the next year a group of Vicenzans, including Palladio, founded the Accademia Olimpica for the furthering of arts and sciences. In 1556 Daniele Barbaro, a Venetian humanist, published a commentary on the architectural treatise of the ancient Roman writer Vitruvius for which Palladio made the illustrations. At the same time Palladio designed for Barbaro and his brother at Maser (ca. 1555-1559) one of the loveliest of all villas. The Villa Barbaro (now Volpi) is set into a gentle hillside. The central, two-storied casino with a temple front of Ionic half-columns and pediment is flanked by single-story arcades connecting it to the service buildings, for the villa also served as a farm. In the 16th century the nobility of the Veneto attempted to improve the agricultural productivity of the land, and their villas served as residences during the periods when they supervised the farming.

Palladio's first architecture in the city of Venice was the commencement of the monastery of S. Giorgio Maggiore, whose refectory he completed (1560-1562). This was followed by the church of S. Giorgio Maggiore (1565-1610), which has a basilical plan with apsidal transept arms and a deep choir. The facade (designed 1565, executed 1607-1610), with its temple front on four giant half columns flanked by two half temple fronts on smaller pilasters, is Palladio's solution to the translation of a Christian church design into the classical mode. He applied a similar facade to the older church of S. Francesco della Vigna (ca. 1565). The Palazzo Valmarana (1565-1566) in Vicenza uses giant Corinthian pilasters, except at the ends, to emphasize the planar aspect of the facade adapted to its urban location.

Late Style

Palladio's treatise on architecture, I quattro libri dell' architettura (1570), consists of four books. The first is devoted to technical questions and the classical orders, the second to domestic architecture, the third to civic architecture, and the fourth to ecclesiastical architecture. It is illustrated by ancient architecture and the works of Bramante and Palladio himself.

The truncated Loggia del Capitaniato (1571-1572) in Vicenza has giant half columns with an arcaded loggia below. In many of its details this design reveals an unclassical spirit. The short side, however, is modeled on an ancient triumphal arch and commemorates the victory of Lepanto in October 1571, which occurred while the loggia was being executed. As the chief architect of Venice, Palladio designed the festival triumphal arch and the decorations to welcome the entry of King Henry III of France to Venice in July 1574.

To fulfill a vow of salvation from the disastrous plague of 1575-1576 the Venetian Senate commissioned Palladio to build the Church of the Redentore (1576-1592). Perhaps influenced by the Church of the Gesù in Rome, it is a wide basilica with side chapels and a trilobed crossing with deep choir. The facade, approached by monumental stairs, is a more unified version of his earlier church facades. For the Villa Barbaro at Maser he designed a separate chapel, the Tempietto (1579-1580), modeled on the ancient Roman Pantheon.

Palladio executed a theater, the Teatro Olimpico (1580), in Vicenza for the Accademia Olimpica. Based on the design of an ancient Roman theater, the auditorium is segmental in plan, facing a stage modeled on a Roman scaenae frons. The perspective stage scenery in wood and stucco was added by Vincenzo Scamozzi after Palladio's design. On Aug. 19, 1580, Palladio died in Vicenza.

His Influence

Through his treatise Palladio exerted a dominant influence on architecture for over 2 centuries, particularly in northern Europe. There were two major periods of Palladianism in England. In the first half of the 17th century Inigo Jones converted English architecture to the Italianate Renaissance by introducing Palladio's style, seen best in the Banqueting Hall, Whitehall, London, and the Queen's House, Greenwich. The second wave of Palladianism was fostered in the early 18th century by the Earl of Burlington. Palladio's treatise was published in 1715 in an English translation by Giacomo Leoni. American architecture felt the impact in the late 18th and early 19th century, as seen in Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

Further Reading

An excellent study of Palladio in English is James S. Ackerman, Palladio (1966). For a discussion of the villas see Ackerman's Palladio's Villas (1967). The fundamental study of Palladio's theory and its relation to his practice is in parts 3 and 4 in Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (1949; 3d ed. rev. 1962). The Centro Internazionale di Storia dell'Architettura in Vicenza is sponsoring in English a Corpus Palladianum of about 30 volumes, the first of which is Camilo Semenzato, The Rotonda of Andrea Palladio (trans. 1968).

Additional Sources

Puppi, Lionello, Andrea Palladio, Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975, 1973. □

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Palladio, Andrea

Palladio, Andrea (1508–80). One of the most gifted, professional, and intelligent of architects working in Italy in C16, whose work provided the models for the Palladian style (Palladianism) and had a profound effect on Western architectural thinking. Palladio's studies of the architectural remains of ancient Rome led him to attempt to emulate its nobility and grandeur. Interpreting the texts of Vitruvius in his architecture and theories, he further explored the potential of symmetry in design, and developed various other concerns of the Renaissance, including the theory of harmonic proportions. He also drew on precedents provided by Italian architects, notably Bramante, Raphael, Giulio Romano, Sanmicheli, and Sansovino.

Born Andrea di Pietro della Gondola in Padua, Palladio began his career as a stonemason, and joined the Guild of Masons and Stonecutters of Vicenza in 1524. Around 1536 he became the protégé of Count Giangiorgio Trissino (1478–1550), the leading intellectual in Vicenza, who stimulated the young man to appreciate the arts, sciences, and Classical literature, granted him the opportunity to study Antique architecture in Rome, and called him ‘Palladio’ (from Pallas, a name for Athene, the Greek goddess associated with Wisdom).

Palladio won the competition to recase the municipal ‘Basilica’ (or Palazzo della Ragione) in Vicenza, and construction started in 1549. The design consists of a screen composed of two storeys employing a version of the arcuated theme at Sansovino's Biblioteca Marciana in Venice (from 1537) and from Serlio's L'Architettura of 1537 (although ultimately originating with Bramante). Consisting of arches flanked by smaller rectangular openings beneath the entablatures from which the arches spring, the motif is in essence the serliana, also called Palladian or Venetian window. An elegant tour-de-force of Classical elements put together with verve and élan, the Basilica made Palladio's name, and from 1550 he was fully employed as a designer of churches, palazzi, and villas.

His first grand house in Vicenza was the Palazzo Thiene (commenced 1542 to designs probably by Giulio Romano), in which the Mannerism of the heavily rusticated exterior is combined with an interior plan drawing on themes from Antiquity (e.g. the sequence of rectangular rooms with an apsidal-ended hall and octagonal spaces with niches, clearly derived from the precedents of Antique Roman thermae). For the Palazzo Iseppo Porto (c.1548–52), Palladio planned two identical blocks on each side of a central court around which was to be a Giant Order of columns, evoking the atrium of a Roman house and the Capitoline palaces of Michelangelo in Rome. The symmetry and the sequence of rooms (each in proportion to the adjoining) were to become features of Palladio's work. Of the other Vicentine buildings, the Palazzo Chiericati (1550, but not completed until late in C17) deserves mention as it was designed to be a side of a great ‘forum’, with loggie as public amenities arranged as two storeys of colonnades, an unusual and highly original design for C16. The Loggia del Capitaniato (begun 1571), opposite the ‘Basilica’ in Vicenza, again employed a Giant Order, giving the impression that the building was constructed within surviving remains of a Roman temple, and there are Mannerist touches, including windows breaking into the entablature, triglyphs acting as brackets carrying balconies, and the side elevation in the form of a triumphal arch. The last, Roman Antiquity, and tricks of perspective are evoked in the Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza (begun 1580 and finished by Scamozzi), where even the painted sky of the ceiling suggested a theatre of the ancients.

In his designs for villas, Palladio devised a theme with a central symmetrically planned corps-de-logis, often embellished with a prostyle portico. Subsidiary buildings were linked to the main block by means of extended wings or curved quadrants containing ancillary accommodation (often associated with the needs of agriculture). Agreeably sited to revive the idea of the Roman love of country life and gardens, the spirit of Pliny was never far removed from the villas. One of Palladio's most enchanting designs was the Villa Barbaro at Maser (c.1560), with a temple-fronted two-storeyed centrepiece and symmetrical wings on either side consisting of five-bay arcades terminating in end-pavilions crowned with pediments, a fine example of the villa rustica. Palladio devised many permutations of his villa theme, including the powerful, almost Neo-Classical boldness of the Villa Poiana (c.1549–60); the deceptive simplicity of the Villa Foscari, Malcontenta di Mira, near Mestre (c.1558–60); and the remarkable Villa Capra (known as La Rotonda), a villa suburbana, near Vicenza (c.1566–70), with identical hexastyle Ionic porticoes (temple-fronts) on each of the four elevations and a central circular two-storey room capped with a cupola. This employment of temple-fronts or porticoes on villas was based on Palladio's erroneous belief that Antique Roman houses had them: nevertheless, the relationships of porticoes to elements of the composition, including room dimensions, were governed by the concept of harmonic proportion. The Villa Capra's only function was as a pleasure-pavilion or belvedere from where beautiful views could be enjoyed.

The façades of Palladio's Venetian Churches of San Francesco della Vigna (1562–70), San Giorgio Maggiore (1564–80), and Il Redentore (1576–80) show ingenious solutions to the problems of placing Classical temple-fronts on to the basilican arrangement of clerestoreyed nave with lean-to aisles. High, narrow temple-fronts are placed at the ends of the naves, complete with pediments, with a wider, lower, pedimented front set ‘behind’ so that its extremities provide the façades to the aisles. The interior spatial effects in San Giorgio and Il Redentore have a gravitas and complexity unlike other churches of the time.

Palladio published Le antichità di Roma (valued as a gazetteer for two centuries), and Descrizione delle chiese … di Roma (Description of the Churches of Rome) in 1554. He also provided important illustrations for Barbaro's edition of Vitruvius (1556). In 1570 he brought out I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture), which publicized his own works, set out his theories, and illustrated and described various important buildings (mostly Roman, including Bramante's circular Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio). It also illustrated canonical versions of the Roman Orders of architecture and a range of his own buildings in plan, elevation, and section, with measurements and descriptive text. Thus the work put his designs on a par with the great buildings of the past, and helped to enhance his reputation. The Quattro libri, a more accurate treatise than those by Serlio or Vignola, appeared in several subsequent editions, but that of Leoni (1715–20—translated as The Architecture of A. Palladio…) appeared in English, French, and Italian, the first adequate edition since 1642, and the first to substitute large engraved plates for Palladio's woodcuts. The book was a huge success and a second edition was published in 1721, a third following, with ‘Notes and Remarks of Inigo Jones’, in 1742. Leoni's remained the standard work until Ware's more scholarly edition of 1738, and it is the latter that has found most favour, republished in facsimile in 1965 with an introduction by Adolf K. Placzek. The plates, by Ware, were a lot more accurate than Leoni's rather embellished versions, and Ware's opus came out in further editions in 1767 and 1768. Batty Langley looted these publications for his own books (notably his City and Country Builder's and Workman's Treasury (1740)), and a version of Palladio's First Book, augmented with other material by Muet, was published in the 1740s by Godfrey Richards. It was this Franco-English edition that seems to have introduced Palladianism to America.See also palladianism.


Ackerman (1966, 1967);
Bonet (ed.) (2002);
Boucher (1998);
H. Burns (ed.) (1975); Holberton (1990);
Leoni (1742);
D. Lewis (2000);
Palladio (1570, 1965, 1997);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Li. Puppi (1975, 1980);
Rybczynski (2003);
Rykwert (1999);
Tavernor (1991);
Jane Turner (1996);
Wittkower (1974a, 1998);
Zorzi (ed.) (from 1959)

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Palladio, Andrea

Andrea Palladio (ändrĕ´ä päl-lä´dēō), 1508–80, Italian architect of the Renaissance. Originally a stonemason, he was trained as an architect in Vicenza, and later in Rome he examined the remains of Roman architecture. The measured drawings he made of these were published with compositions of his own and, based on the treatise of Vitruvius, a description of practical systems of design and proportioning. This famous work, I quattro libri dell'architectura (1570, tr. The Four Books of Architecture, 1716), has been reissued many times.

Palladio's buildings, chiefly town palaces and villas, were executed mostly in Vicenza and its vicinity. Usually they were made of humble materials that contrasted with their formal classicism. Palladio's first important work (begun 1549) was to rebuild the medieval town hall, the basilica at Vicenza. He designed arches supported on minor columns and framed between larger engaged columns. Each of these arch-and-column compositions formed what is termed a "Palladian motif" and was much imitated. The characteristic facade of many of Palladio's country houses displayed the classic temple front—superimposed pilasters or columns or often a colossal order two stories in height and supported by a rusticated ground story. Generally in his buildings he systematized the ground plan, designing a central hall around which other rooms were grouped in absolute symmetry.

Among his best-known houses (built in the 1550s and 1560s) are the Villa Rotonda (overlooking Vicenza), the Chiericati Palace and the Valmarana Palace (both: Vicenza), and the Villa Barbaro (Maser). At Venice he adapted the classical motif to three church facades, in his designs for San Francesco della Vigna, San Giorgio Maggiore, and Il Redentore. Just before his death Palladio planned the Teatro Olimpico, in which he incorporated a permanent scenic background, built in architectural perspective.

Reviving and redesigning the ancient Roman villa for a new humanist age, Palladio set the vocabulary of architectural pattern, proportion, and ornament for much of Western domestic architecture for centuries to come. His books and buildings exerted an unparalleled influence on European and American architecture. In the 17th cent., Inigo Jones imported Palladio's classic grandeur of design into England and profoundly influenced the course of English architecture. Subsequently, William Kent, Colin Campbell, Sir Christopher Wren, Sir William Chambers, and others created a great body of works termed Palladian. In the United States his influence can be seen in the manor houses of southern plantations, e.g., Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

See R. Wittkower, Palladio and Palladianism (1974); J. Ackerman, Palladio (2d ed. 1977); W. Rybczynski, The Perfect House (2002); G. Giaconi and K. Williams, The Villas of Palladio (2003); L. Capellini, The Hand of Palladio (2009).

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Palladio, Andrea (1508–1580)

Palladio, Andrea (15081580)

Italian architect and writer who adopted classical motifs and style in his public and private buildings. Born in Padua as Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, he served as an apprentice to a stonecutter. He worked as a stone carver in Vicenza, where he was further trained by the scholar Giangiorgio Trissino, who gave him the nickname of Palladio after the Greek goddess Pallas Athena. Palladio began designing private homes in Vicenza and, in 1541 traveled to Rome, where he began studying the monuments of ancient Rome. When he returned to Vicenza, he began incorporating designs of Roman temples, baths, and monuments into the facades of buildings he designed.

In 1546 the city of Vicenza commissioned Palladio to renovate the Palazzo della Ragione, the city's law court. He surrounded the building with loggias, or walking passages covered by an arcade. With this work Palladio's reputation spread among the wealthy merchants and aristocrats of the Veneto region, which was prospering through trade within Venice's farflung Mediterranean empire. In honor of its architect, the project, which was not completed until the early seventeenth century, came to be known as the Basilica Palladiana. Palladio wrote a guidebook to the antiquities of Rome, illustrated a Renaissance edition of the writings of the Roman architect Vitruvius, and founded an academy in Vicenza. His Four Books on Architecture, completed in 1570, is a complete account of techniques of architecture applied to private homes, religious buildings, and civic buildings.

Palladio is best known for private villas he designed in the Veneto, including the Villa Barbaro and the Villa Capra, an elegant symmetrical cube topped by a dome and displaying a temple front on each of its four sides. His elegant Palladian style combined ancient building elements and the Renaissance taste for the opulent display of wealth. Drawing on his discoveries in the ruins of ancient Rome, he employed classical columns, arches, pediments, atriums, and peristyles (courts), always careful to balance the different elements of a building and consider the structure's presence on its natural site. Palladian buildings exhibited the harmony and balance of the classical world. Palladio swept away the decorative Gothic style and set the standard for architecture for the next two centuries, when builders in Europe and the United States, including Thomas Jefferson, were imitating his style in structures large and small.

See Also: Alberti, Leon Battista; architecture; Bramante, Donato

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Palladio, Andrea

Palladio, Andrea (1508–80) Italian Renaissance architect. He studied Roman architecture and published his own designs and drawings of Roman ruins in Four Books of Architecture (1570). See also Palladianism

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