Andrea Palladio

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30 Nov 1508
19 Aug 1580
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Andrea Palladio ( 30 November 1508 – 19 August 1580) was an Italian architect active in the Republic of Venice. Palladio, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily by Vitruvius, is widely considered to be the most influential individual 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. The city of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Palladio was born on 30 November 1508 in Padua and was given the name, Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola. 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 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. 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, who 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.

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.

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. In addition to the Barbaros, the Corner, Foscari, and Pisani families supported Palladio’s career.

Andrea Palladio began to develop his own architectural style around 1541. The Palladian style, named after him, adhered to classical Roman principles he rediscovered, applied, and explained in his works.

Andrea 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” (Watkin, D., A History of Western Architecture).

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.

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.

Palladio’s 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 in 1617 after Palladio’s death.

Aside from Palladio’s designs, his publications contributed to Palladianism. During the second half of his life, Palladio published many books, above all, I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura (The four books of architecture, Venice, 1570). Palladio is most known for his designs of villas and palaces as well as his books.

The precise circumstances of his death are unknown. Palladio died in 1580, retold in tradition, in Maser, near Treviso, and was buried in the church of Santa Corona in Vicenza; since the nineteenth century his tomb is located in the Cimitero Maggiore of Vicenza.

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