Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Andrea Palladio

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 11
Andrea Palladio

by Ralph Adams Cram


Italian architect, born at Vicenza 1508; died at Venice, 19 August, 1580. There is a tradition that he was the son of a poor carpenter, with no surname of his own, and that the famous humanistic poet, Gian Giorgio Trissino, became his patron and gave him the name of Palladio, in fanciful allusion to Pallas, the Greek goddess of wisdom. After a brief apprenticeship as sculptor he travelled and studied the remains of classical architecture, endeavouring to determine its principles by the aid of Vitruvius's writings. The results of these studies appear in the buildings which he constructed, of which the earliest known is the Palazzo Godi at Lonedo (1540). The execution of his design for the rebuilding of the basilica in his native town was commenced in 1549. The colonnades of this basilica are his most famous work. His Arco di Trionfo, also at Vicenza, is even now the best modern imitation of a Roman triumphal arch. A fine sense of proportion, combined with scholarly refinement and fertility of invention, characterizes the palaces of Vicenza, where Palladio had a free hand. He was a favourite of society in and about Vicenza, and was therefore a most prolific designer of villas. Few of these were ever completed, many have been changed or dismantled, and nearly all have lost the environment of gardens and accessories which were a necessary part of the composition. All are, however, stately, spacious and airy, effective in mass, dignified in detail, and free from affectation. Two standard types are the Villa Capra, in the environs of Vicenza, and the Villa Giacomelli at Treviso.

Only three sacred buildings are surely his work, the small chapel near the last-named villa and the churches of San Giorgio (1565) and Il Redentore (begun, 1576, finished after his death) at Venice. These two churches are cruciform with aisles, crossing-domes, and apsidal terminations to choirs and transepts. The interiors are cold, powerful, and spacious; the exteriors are frankly structural of inferior materials, with semi-circular, lead-covered domes, and with no ornamentation except in the facades.

Palladio may be taken as the representative of a wholesome reaction against the decadent tendencies of his age, and may be said to have fixed good architectural style for many succeeding centuries. Although in France a more meretricious taste prevailed, represented by Lescaut and by De l'Orme in England, through Inigo Jones, Palladio became so much the controlling spirit that the English style of the seventeenth century is now known as "Palladian". Naturally, the Georgian architecture of the United States develops directly from Palladio through the later masters who followed Inigo Jones. Palladio's writings, particularly "Le Antichità di Roma" and the "Quattro Libri dell' Architettura", did more than anything else to spread his influence over Europe: many editions were published in Italy between 1554 and 1642. They were widely translated, and in England Inigo Jones acted as editor and commentator.

Ralph Adams Cram.