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Portrait of Palladio from the 17th century
Portrait of Palladio from the 17th century

Andrea Palladio (/pəˈlɑːdioʊ/ pə-LAH-dee-oh, Italian: [anˈdrɛːa palˈlaːdjo]; 30 November 1508 – 19 August 1580) was an Italian[3] Renaissance architect active in the Venetian Republic. Palladio, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily Vitruvius,[4] is widely considered to be one of the most influential individuals in the history of architecture. All of his buildings are located in what was the Venetian Republic, but his teachings, summarized in the architectural treatise, The Four Books of Architecture, gained him wide recognition.[5]

The city of Vicenza, with its 23 buildings designed by Palladio, and 24 Palladian Villas of the Veneto are listed by UNESCO as part of a World Heritage Site named City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto.[6]


Palladio was born on 30 November 1508 in Padua and was given the name, Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola.[7] His father, Pietro, called "Della Gondola", was a miller. From early on, Andrea Palladio was introduced into the work of building. In Padua he gained his first experiences as a stonecutter in the sculpture workshop of Bartolomeo Cavazza da Sossano, who was the sculptor responsible for the altar in the Church of Santa Maria dei Carmini in Padua.[8] Cavazza da Sossano is said to have imposed particularly hard working conditions. At the age of sixteen he moved to Vicenza where he would reside for most of his life. Here he became an assistant in the Pedemuro studio, a leading workshop of stonecutters and masons. He joined a guild of stonemasons and bricklayers. He was employed as a stonemason to make monuments and decorative sculptures.[4] These sculptures reflected the Mannerist style of the architect Michele Sanmicheli.

Perhaps the key moment that sparked Palladio's career was being employed by the Humanist poet and scholar, Gian Giorgio Trissino, from 1538 to 1539. While Trissino was reconstructing the Villa Cricoli, he took interest in Palladio's work. Trissino was heavily influenced by the studies of Vitruvius, which had become available in print in 1486.[9] These later influenced Palladio's own ideals and attitudes toward classical architecture. As the leading intellectual in Vicenza, Trissino stimulated the young man to appreciate the arts, sciences, and Classical literature and he granted him the opportunity to study Ancient architecture in Rome.[1] It was also Trissino who gave him the name by which he became known, Palladio, an allusion to the Greek goddess of wisdom Pallas Athene and to a character of a play by Trissino. Indeed, the word Palladio means Wise one.[10] After Trissino's death in 1550, Palladio benefited from the patronage of the Barbaro brothers, Cardinal Daniele Barbaro, who encouraged his studies of classical architecture and brought him to Rome in 1554, and his younger brother Marcantonio Barbaro. The powerful Barbaros introduced Palladio to Venice, where he finally became "Proto della Serenissima" (chief architect of the Republic of Venice) after Jacopo Sansovino.[11] In addition to the Barbaros, the Corner, Foscari, and Pisani families supported Palladio's career.[12]

Andrea Palladio began to develop his own architectural style around 1541. The Palladian style, named after him, adhered to classical Roman principles he rediscovered and applied in his works.[2] His first major public project began when his designs for building the loggias for the town hall, known as the Basilica Palladiana, were approved in 1548. He proposed an addition of two-storey stone buttresses reflecting the Gothic style of the existing hall while using classical proportions. The construction was completed posthumously in 1617.

Aside from Palladio's designs, his publications contributed to Palladianism. During the second half of his life, Palladio published many books on architecture, most famously, I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture, Venice, 1570).[9] Palladio is most known for his designs of villas and palaces as well as his books.

The precise circumstances of Palladio's death are unknown. He died in 1580,[13] retold in tradition in Maser, Italy, and was buried in the church of Santa Corona in Vicenza. Since the 19th century his tomb has been located in the Cimitero Maggiore of Vicenza.

Cultural context

Palladio's architecture was not dependent on expensive materials, which must have been an advantage to his more financially pressed clients. Many of his buildings are of brick covered with stucco. Stuccoed brickwork was always used in his villa designs in order to portray his interpretations of the Roman villa typology.

In the later part of his career, Palladio was chosen by powerful members of Venetian society for numerous important commissions. His success as an architect is based not only on the beauty of his work, but also for its harmony with the culture of his time. His success and influence came from the integration of extraordinary aesthetic quality with expressive characteristics that resonated with his client's social aspirations. His buildings served to communicate, visually, their place in the social order of their culture. This powerful integration of beauty and the physical representation of social meanings is apparent in three major building types: the urban palazzo, the agricultural villa, and the church.

Relative to his trips to Rome, Palladio developed three main palace types by 1556. In 1550, the Palazzo Chiericati was completed. The proportions for the building were based on musical ratios for adjacent rooms. The building was centralized by a tripartite division of a series of columns or colonnades. In 1552, the Palazzo Iseppo Porto located in Vicenza was rebuilt incorporating the Roman Renaissance element for façades. A colonnade of Corinthian columns surrounded a main court. The Palazzo Antonini in Udine, constructed in 1556, had a centralized hall with four columns and service spaces placed relatively toward one side. He uses styles of incorporating the six columns, supported by pediments, into the walls as part of the façade. This technique had been applied in his villa designs as well. Palladio experimented with the plan of the Palazzo Iseppo Porto by incorporating it into the Palazzo Thiene. It was an earlier project from 1545 to 1550 and remained uncompleted due to elaborate elevations in his designs. He used Mannerist elements such as stucco surface reliefs and large columns, often extending two stories high.

In his urban structures he developed a new improved version of the typical early Renaissance palazzo (exemplified by the Palazzo Strozzi). Adapting a new urban palazzo type created by Bramante in the House of Raphael, Palladio found a powerful expression of the importance of the owner and his social position. The main living quarters of the owner on the second level were clearly distinguished in importance by use of a pedimented classical portico, centered and raised above the subsidiary and utilitarian ground level (illustrated in the Palazzo Porto and the Palazzo Valmarana). The tallness of the portico was achieved by incorporating the owner's sleeping quarters on the third level, within a giant two-story classical colonnade, a motif adapted from Michelangelo's Capitoline buildings in Rome. The elevated main floor level became known as the "piano nobile", and is still referred to as the "first floor" in Europe.

Palladio also established an influential new building format for the agricultural villas of the Venetian aristocracy. Palladio's approach to his villa designs was not relative to his experience in Rome. His designs were based on practicality and employed few reliefs. He consolidated the various stand-alone farm outbuildings into a single impressive structure, arranged as a highly organized whole, dominated by a strong center and symmetrical side wings, as illustrated at Villa Barbaro. In the project of the Villa Barbaro, Palladio most likely was also engaged in the interior decoration. Alongside the painter Paolo Veronese, he invented the complex and sophisticated illusionistic landscape paintings that cover the walls of various rooms.[14]

The Villa Rotonda of 1552, outside Vicenza, was constructed as a summer house with views from all four sides. The plan has centralized circular halls with wings and porticos expanding on all four sides. Palladio began to implement the classical temple front into his design of façades for villas. He felt that to make an entry appear grand, the Roman temple front would be the most suitable style. The Palladian villa configuration often consists of a centralized block raised on an elevated podium, accessed by grand steps, and flanked by lower service wings, as at Villa Foscari and Villa Badoer. This format, with the quarters of the owners at the elevated center of their own world, found resonance as a prototype for Italian villas and later for the country estates of the British nobility (such as Lord Burlington's Chiswick House, Vanbrugh's Blenheim, Walpole's Houghton Hall, and Adam's Kedleston Hall and Paxton House [42] in Scotland). His villas were used by a capitalist gentry who developed an interest in agriculture and land. The configuration was a perfect architectural expression of their worldview, clearly expressing their perceived position in the social order of the times. His influence was extended worldwide into the British colonies.

Palladio developed his own prototype for the plan of the villas that was flexible to moderate in scale and function. The Palladian villa format was easily adapted for a democratic worldview, as may be seen at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and his arrangement for the University of Virginia. It also may be seen applied as recently as 1940 in Pope's National Gallery in Washington D.C., where the public entry to the world of high culture occupies the exalted center position. The rustication of exposed basement walls of Victorian residences is a late remnant of the Palladian format, clearly expressed as a podium for the main living space for the family.

Similarly, Palladio created a new configuration for the design of Catholic churches that established two interlocking architectural orders, each clearly articulated, yet delineating a hierarchy of a larger order overriding a lesser order. This idea was in direct coincidence with the rising acceptance of the theological ideas of St. Thomas Aquinas, who postulated the notion of two worlds existing simultaneously: the divine world of faith, and the earthly world of humans. Palladio created an architecture which made a visual statement communicating the idea of two superimposed systems, as illustrated at San Francesco della Vigna. In a time when religious dominance in Western culture was threatened by the rising power of science and secular humanists, this architecture found great favor with the Catholic Church as a clear statement of the proper relationship of the earthly and the spiritual worlds.


Palladio is known to be one of the most influential architects in Western architecture. His architectural works have "been valued for centuries as the quintessence of High Renaissance calm and harmony"[15] He designed many palaces, villas, and churches, but Palladio's reputation, initially, and after his death, has been founded on his skill as a designer of villas.[16] The Palladian villas are located mainly in the province of Vicenza, while the palazzi are concentrated in the city of Vicenza and the churches in Venice. A number of his works are now protected as part of the World Heritage Site City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto. Other buildings by Palladio are to be found within the Venice and its Lagoon World Heritage Site.

Although his buildings are all in a relatively small part of Italy, Palladio's influence was far-reaching. One factor in the spread of his influence was the publication in 1570 of his architectural treatise, I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture), which set out rules others could follow. The first book includes studies of decorative styles, classical orders, and materials. The second book included Palladio's town and country house designs and classical reconstructions. The third book has bridge and basilica designs, city planning designs, and classical halls. The fourth book included information on the reconstruction of ancient Roman temples. Before this landmark publication, architectural drawings by Palladio had appeared in print as illustrations to Daniele Barbaro's "Commentary" on Vitruvius.[17]

Interest in his style was renewed in later generations and became fashionable throughout Europe, for example in parts of the Loire Valley of France. In Britain, Inigo Jones, Elizabeth Wilbraham, and Christopher Wren embraced the Palladian style. In his Italian Journey, Johann von Goethe describes Palladio as a genius, commending his unfinished Convent of Saint Maria della Carita as the most perfect existing work of architecture. Another admirer was the architect, Richard Boyle, 4th Earl of Cork, also known as Lord Burlington, who, with William Kent, designed Chiswick House. The influence of Palladio even spread to America. Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Dawes much admired that style of architecture, and the United States Capitol building is an example of a slightly evolved version of Palladio's works. The One Hundred Eleventh Congress of the United States of America called him the "Father of American Architecture"[18] (Congressional Resolution no. 259 of 6 December 2010). Exponents of Palladianism include the eighteenth century Venetian architect, Giacomo Leoni, who published an authoritative four-volume work on Palladio and his architectural concepts.

More than 330 of Palladio's original drawings and sketches still survive in the collections of the Royal Institute of British Architects,[19] most of which originally were owned by Inigo Jones. Jones collected a significant number of these on his Grand Tour of 1613–1614, while some were a gift from Henry Wotton.[20] The Center for Palladian Studies in America, Inc., a nonprofit membership organization, was founded in 1979 to research and promote understanding of Palladio's influence in the architecture of the United States. In 2010, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. created an exhibition dedicated solely to Palladio and his legacy. The exhibition, titled Palladio and His Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey,[21] was open to the public until January 2011.

Chronology of the works

Note: the chronology[22] is generally referred to the project of the works, not to the construction.

  • 1540 (built 1540 – 1542): Palazzo Civena, for Giovanni Giacomo, Pier Antonio, Vincenzo and Francesco Civena, Vicenza (rebuilt in 1750 and after World War II)
  • 1542 (built 1542 – 1558): Palazzo Thiene, for Marcantonio and Adriano Thiene, Vicenza (probably on a project by Giulio Romano)
  • 1545: Palazzo Garzadori in contra' Piancoli, for Girolamo Garzadori, Vicenza (unbuilt, uncertain attribution)
  • 1546 – 1549 (built 1549 – 1614): Loggias of the Palazzo della Ragione (then called Basilica Palladiana), Vicenza (completed in 1614 after Palladio's death)
  • c. 1546 (built: 1546 – 1552): Palazzo Porto, for Iseppo da Porto, Vicenza
  • 1548 (built 1548 – 1552): Palazzo Volpe in contra' Gazzolle, for Antonio Volpe, Vicenza (uncertain attribution)
  • 1550 (built 1551 – 1557; c. 1680): Palazzo Chiericati, for Girolamo Chiericati, Vicenza (completed about 1680 after Palladio's death)
  • c. 1555-c. 1566: Palazzo Pojana, for Vincenzo Pojana, Vicenza (attributed)
  • c. 1555: Palazzo Dalla Torre, for Giambattista Dalla Torre, Verona (only partially realized; partially destroyed by a bombing in 1945)
  • 1555 ?: Palazzo Poiana in contra' San Tomaso, for Bonifacio Pojana, Vicenza (unfinished)
  • 1555 – 1556 ?: Palazzo Garzadori, for Giambattista Garzadori, Polegge, Vicenza (unbuilt project)
  • c. 1556 (built 1556 – 1595): Palazzo Antonini, for Floriano Antonini, Udine (altered by later arrangements)
  • After 1556: Loggia Valmarana in the Giardini Salvi, for Gian Luigi Valmarana, Vicenza (uncertain attribution)
  • 1557 – 1558: Palazzo Trissino in contra' Riale, for Francesco and Ludovico Trissino, Vicenza (unbuilt project)
  • 1559 (built 1559 – 1562): Casa Cogollo, for Pietro Cogollo, traditionally known as Casa del Palladio ("Palladio's home"), Vicenza (attributed)
  • 1560 (built 1560 – 1565; 1574 – 1575): Palazzo Schio, for Bernardo Schio, Vicenza (façade)
  • After 1561: Palazzo Della Torre ai Portoni della Bra', for Giambattista Della Torre, Verona (unbuilt project)
  • 1564 (built 1565 – 1586): Palazzo Pretorio, for the town council, Cividale del Friuli, Province of Udine (project, attributed)
  • 1564 ?: Palazzo Angaran, for Giacomo Angaran, Vicenza (unbuilt project)
  • After 1564: Palazzo Capra al Corso, for Giulio Capra, Vicenza (unbuilt project)
  • 1565 (built 1571 – 1572): Palazzo del Capitaniato (or Loggia del Capitanio), for the town council, Vicenza
  • 1565 (built 1566 – 1580): Palazzo Valmarana, for Isabella Nogarola Valmarana, Vicenza
  • 1569 (built 1570 – 1575): Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, for Montano Barbarano, Vicenza
  • 1571 ? (built 1572 – 1585): Palazzo Porto in Piazza Castello, for Alessandro Porto, Vicenza (unfinished; partially completed in 1615 by Vincenzo Scamozzi)
  • 1572 ? (built before 1586 – 1610s): Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare, for Francesco Thiene, Vicenza (progetto; costruito da Vincenzo Scamozzi)
  • 1574: Rooms of Palazzo Ducale, Venice
  • 1531: Portal for the church of Santa Maria dei Servi, Vicenza (attributed; with Girolamo Pittoni and Giacomo da Porlezza)
  • 1537: Monument to Girolamo Schio, Bishop of Vaison in the Cathedral of Vicenza (with Girolamo Pittoni, attributed)
  • 1558 (built 1558 – 1559; 1564 – 1566): Dome of the Cathedral, Vicenza (destroyed in a bombing during World War II, then rebuilt)
  • 1559: Façade for the Basilica of San Pietro di Castello, Venice (completed after Palladio's death)
  • 1560 (built 1560 – 1563): Refectory of the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venezia
  • 1560 (built 1561 – 1562): Convento della Carità, Venice (only the cloister and the atrium destroyed in 1630 in a fire)
  • 1560: Monument to Giano Fregoso in the church of Santa Anastasia of the Dominicans, for Ercole Fregoso, Verona (uncertain attribution; with Danese Cattaneo)
  • After 1563: Funeral monument to Luigi Visconti in the cloister of the Chapter in the Basilica of Saint Anthony, Padua (attributed)
  • 1564 (built 1564 – 1565): North portal and Almerico Chapel in the Vicenza Cathedral, for Paolo Almerico, Vicenza
  • 1564: Façade for the church of San Francesco della Vigna, for Giovanni Grimani, Venice
  • 1565 (built 1565 – 1576): Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, for the Congregation of Santa Giustina, Venice (completed between 1607 and 1611, after Palladio's death, with a different façade, by Vincenzo Scamozzi)
  • 1574: Façade for San Petronio Basilica, Bologna (studies)
  • 1574 or 1579 ?: Church of Le Zitelle, Venice (uncertain attribution)
  • c. 1576 (built 1576 – 1580): Valmarana Chapel in the Church of Santa Corona, for Isabella Nogarola Valmarana, Vicenza
  • 1576 (built 1577 – 1586): Church of Il Redentore, Venice
  • 1578 (built 1588 – 1590): Church of Santa Maria Nova, Vicenza (project attributed, completed after Palladio's death)
  • 1580: Church of Santa Lucia, Venice (drawings for the interior; demolished)
  • 1580 (built 1580 – 1584): Church of Villa Barbaro (Tempietto Barbaro), for Marcantonio Barbaro, Maser, Province of Treviso
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