Andrea Palladio, an Italian architect, originally, Andrea di Pietro della Gondola was born on November 30, 1508, in Padua, the Republic of Venice, Italy. He died in August 1580 in Vicenza, Italy. While Andrea was a young mason, he was enrolled in the guild of the bricklayers and stonemasons. He was a stonemason in workshops specializing in monuments and decorative sculpture in the style of the Mannerist architect Michele Sanmicheli of Verona. While there, he was noticed by an Italian scholar and soon found himself studying mathematics, philosophy, music, and classical authors. From 1541 he made several trips to Rome to study the ancient ruins. His first palace design was the Palazzo Civenz (1540–46). It was innovative for its use of an arcade area behind the main elevation, in imitation of a Roman forum. In his villas, Palladio tried to re-create the Roman villa based on ancient descriptions. His first Villa, Godi at Lonedo (1540–1542) contained elements for which he is famous, including symmetrical wings and a walled court. While Palladio visited Rome with Trissino in 1541 and again in 1547 his visits greatly affected his palace designs. On them, he saw the work of the greatest architects of the Roman High Renaissance style, Donato Bramante, Peruzzi, and Raphael, generally more remembered for his painting than for his architecture. He also measured ancient Roman antiquities, notably the baths. Palladio’s principal ideas on palace design were formed between his first works of 1540 and his visit to Rome in 1554–56.
Palladio further developed the basic plan of his Palazzo Iseppo Porto in the Palazzo Thiene (1545–50), Vicenza, the largest and most problematic of his palace designs, of which only the side and rear blocks were completed. Four wings, containing a combination of rectangular rooms and small octagons, similar to those of the Roman public baths, are symmetrically placed around a huge court. The elevations are of a grandeur unequaled in Palladio’s other work. The design is the first in which Palladio was influenced deeply by the prevailing contemporary style of Mannerism and especially by Giulio Romano, who was in Vicenza when the project was begun.
During his stay in Rome from 1554 to 1556, Palladio 1554 published Le antichità di Roma(“The Antiquities of Rome”), which for 200 years remained the standard guidebook to Rome. In 1556 he collaborated with the classical scholar Daniel Barbaro in reconstructing Roman buildings for the plates of Vitruvius’ influential architectural treatise (written after 25 BCE) De architecture (On Architecture). The new edition was published in Venice in 1556.
His most widely copied villa was the Villa Rotonda (1550–1551), near Vincenza. Palladio was the first to systematize the plan of a house and to use the ancient Greco-Roman temple font as a portico. His reconstruction of the Basilica (town hall) in Vincenza (begun 1549) employs a two-story arcade with a motif that came to be known as Palladian: rounded arches flanked by rectangular openings. His facades for San Francesco della Vigna (1565), San Giorgio Maggiore (begun 1566), and Il Redentoer (begun 1576), all in Venice, became prototypes for attaching Classical temple fronts to basilican churches. Though Palladio absorbed contemporary Mannerist motifs, his plans and elevations always retained a repose and order not associated with Mannerist architecture. His Four Books of Architecture was possibly the most influential architectural pattern book ever printed. His influence climaxed during the 18th-century Classical Revival; the resulting Palladianism spread through Europe and the United States.
Palladio is one of the most influential figures in the whole development of Western architecture. The qualities that made him influential were numerous and varied. His palaces and villas were imitated for 400 years all over the Western world; he was the first architect to systematize the plan of a house and consistently see the ancient Greco-Roman temple front as a portico, or roofed porch supported by columns (this was probably his most imitated architectural feature), and finally, in his I quattro libri dell’architettura, he produced a treatise on architecture that in popularizing classical decorative details, was possibly the most influential architectural pattern book ever printed.
The influence of Palladio’s buildings and publications reached its climax in the architecture of the 18th century, particularly in England, Ireland, the United States, and Italy, creating a style known as Palladianism, which in turn spread to all quarters of the world.
At the end of his life, in 1579, Palladio designed a central plan church as a chapel at Maser. It is a shallow Greek cross covered by a circular dome. Internally, the complex decoration of all surfaces relates it in style more closely to Palladio’s late palace designs than to his churches. This was followed by a similar unexpected project, San Nicola di Tolentino (1579) in Venice. These demonstrate Palladio’s ideal church plan and follow his reconstruction of the Pantheon in the Quattro Libri and paralleling designs by Giacomo da Vignola (1507–73), the leading architect in Rome after Michelangelo.
With the death of Sansovino in 1570, Palladio became the leading architect of the Veneto region. Until then he had failed to gain official state patronage, and his designs for palaces in Venice, known from the Quattro Libri and from drawings had never found patrons. His later civic work in Venice consisted of advice on fortifications, design for decorations used on state occasions, and interiors for the Doges’ Palace. In 1572 his two sons died, and afterward, he lived a secluded life, publishing only an illustrated edition of Julius Caesar’s Commentaries as a memorial.
Palladio’s last commission came in 1579–80 to build a theatre in Vicenza for the Accademia Olimpica for the performance of classical dramas. The design of the Teatro Olimpico was in the nature of an academic exercise, being based on the reconstruction of the ancient Roman theatre at Orange, in France.
When Palladio died he left a considerable number of unfinished buildings, including the Basicila in Vicenza, the two Venetian churches, the Villa Rotonda, and the Teatro Olimpico. These were continued by his followers, notably Vincent Scamozzi (1552–1616) and O. Bertotti-Scamozzi (1719–90), but, because of the changing taste of the period they were not strictly in accordance with Palladio’s designs.
Andrea Palladio was a prolific architect and worked with many famous architects, sculptors, and painters all over the world. He lived a long, productive life and left a lasting legacy. We at Scarano Architect, PLLC greatly admire the accomplishments of Andrea Palladio and encourage our followers to read more about his life. If you need an architect for any of your household projects, please feel free to contact us.