Andrea Palladio

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Alleged portrait of Palladio

Andrea di Pietro della Gondola , called Palladio (born November 30, 1508 in Padua , † August 19, 1580 in Vicenza ), was the most important architect of the Renaissance in Northern Italy .

Palladio was the "first great professional architect" who only worked as an architect without excelling in any other field of art. His models were Roman antiquity and the great architects of the Italian Renaissance, above all Bramante , Michelangelo , Sanmicheli and Sansovino . However, he never pedantically imitated these, but made them productive for the respective building task in a creative and idiosyncratic manner. His goal was an architecture in which, while observing the aesthetic principles of proportion and balance, the requirements of the building function, the practical and ideal needs of the client are taken into account as well as the conditions resulting from the conditions of the building site. As a result, the unique harmony and elegance of its buildings is highlighted. Through his buildings and his theoretical writings, Palladio, as the founder of Palladianism, gained great influence on classicism- bound architecture in Western and Northern Europe, Great Britain and the United States.


Andrea Palladios statue in Vicenza

Youth and Studies

Palladio was born in Padua as the son of the miller Pietro, called: della Gondola . Supported by his godfather, the sculptor Vincenzo Grandi, he received training as a sculptor and stonemason, initially in the workshop of Bartholomeo Cavazza. He fled to Vicenza , but was forced to return because of a breach of contract. A year later the young stonemason was able to join the bricklaying and stonemason guild in Vicenza. There he worked for fourteen years "as an apprentice and assistant to the stone sculptors Giovanni and Girolamo, called da Pedemuro, who created most of the monuments and decorative sculptures in Vicenza".

In April 1534 Palladio married Allegradonna, the daughter of a carpenter, with whom he had five children - one daughter and four sons.

In 1536 he met the poet and philosopher Gian Giorgio Trissino , who was thirty years his senior , who recognized his talent and encouraged him. Palladio also owes Trissino the name under which he became famous, which alludes to the Greek goddess of wisdom Pallas Athene and is mentioned as the angel Palladio in a poem by Trissino. The encounter with Trissino was extremely momentous for Palladio's career as an architect. Trissino encouraged him to study mathematics, music, the Latin classics and especially the work of Vitruvius . He financed Palladio's first trip to Rome in 1541 , where he studied the Roman buildings intensively and recorded them in drawings. The result of this and two other trips are the two books on ancient and Christian architecture of Rome, which Palladio published in 1554.


Around 1540 Palladio had started working as a builder in Vicenza. Some of his first villa buildings in the vicinity of the city date from this time. He won the first competition as an architect in 1549 with his plan to redesign the medieval Palazzo della Ragione . He received the order for this town hall of Vicenza, for which Serlio , Sanmicheli and Giulio Romano had submitted plans before him . Even Venice's leading architect Sansovino had been consulted. In the same year he was appointed chief architect of a building project that dragged on, with several interruptions, into the second decade of the 17th century. In the structure of the first two floors of the hall, also known as the Basilica palladiana , Palladio varied the Serliana architectural motif developed by Serlio. The architectural concept of the "Palladio motif" is derived from this building. Palladio doubles the column position of the arcades, so that the round arch becomes a narrow barrel vault . He also opens the arched gussets through round windows.

Palazzo della Ragione (Basilica palladiana) in Vicenza

This opens the closed wall into the depth of the room. The three-dimensional structure of the open wall through presented columns, column pedestals, friezes , balustrades and the like enables the lively play of light and shadow on the structure. This is characteristic of all of Palladio's later buildings. The elegant and harmonious building made Palladio famous in one fell swoop. Orders for palaces in Vicenza and for rural villas followed. However, very few of the city palaces were completely completed according to his plans. Today they only give an incomplete impression of the original concept. The most famous is the Chiericati Palace , which he began in 1551 on behalf of Count Girolamo Chiericati, but which was not finished until 1680.

In his early palace buildings, Palladio processed his knowledge of Roman palaces, such as Bramante's Palazzo Caprini and Giulio Romano's inventions. Components of rustication of the Palazzo Antonini remember Giulio's Palazzo del Te in Mantua, although less significantly than in his late Mannerist construction of Villa Serego. When designing the Palazzo Valmarana , he applied the colossal order to the structure of the facade of a private palace. This solution found imitators especially in the baroque palace.

His last commission for Vicenza was to design the Teatro Olimpico , the first free-standing theater building since ancient times. Palladio designed the stage like a two-story palace facade with a central triumphal arch , each accompanied by a side gate, window niches decorated with life-size figures and a wide frieze decorated with reliefs. The auditorium has the shape of an amphitheater . The seating steps rise steeply like in an ancient cavea . The auditorium is closed by a semicircular colonnade with Corinthian columns that support a balustrade decorated with figures. After Palladio's death in 1580, the theater was initially built by his son Silla, later completed by Scamozzi and opened in 1584.


From 1550 Palladio was also active in Venice. One topic that moved the Serenissima at this time was the structural renewal and beautification of the city after the attack by the League of Cambrai, which was successfully repulsed . The climate for an innovative and renowned architect like Palladio should therefore be favorable. However, the “traditionalists” prevailed in the major representative building projects in the city, and Palladio did not succeed in implementing his “revolutionary” ideas. Two examples of failed projects are the Rialto Bridge and the Doge's Palace .

Palladio had met the influential patricians Marcantonio and Daniele Barbaro in the city . Above all, Daniele, who was working on the translation and a commentary of Vitruvius during this time , became Palladio's most important Venetian patron and patron , who probably motivated him to apply for the construction of the new Rialto Bridge.

For some time now, the project to build the dilapidated wooden bridge has been up for debate. After various proposals - including Michelangelo had made a draft - had been rejected, Sansovino, Vignola and Palladio submitted drafts to the building commission in 1554 . Palladio's Bridge was an extremely sophisticated and representative piece of architecture with Corinthian colonnades, temple gables and a parade of allegorical figures on the roofs. After a protracted debate, which was mainly about the preference of a single-arch or a three-arch solution, the Antonio da Pontes design finally came into play , an elegant and, compared to the competing designs, light and graceful-looking bridge, which with a single flat arch spanning the canal.

Il Redentore in Venice

The second failure in a public building project was his concept of a complete rebuilding of the Doge's Palace, which was damaged in the conflagration of 1577. The “traditionalists” prevailed and Palladio's plan was rejected in favor of an identical replica of the old palace. He was more successful with the numerous villas on the Terraferma for various patrician families, including the famous Rotonda near Vicenza and the Malcontenta on the Brenta . In these projects, however, he not only developed the architecture, he was also involved in the interior decoration , as in the case of the famous Villa Barbaro painted by Paolo Veronese around 1560/1561 . This opens the interior with the help of an illusionistic landscape painting on imaginatively executed stretches of land. In the vaults, on the other hand, the viewer sees allegorical and mythological scenes on country and villa life.

Palladio had not only private but also church clients in the lagoon city. In his three church facades in Venice, Palladio projected the motif of a classic temple front onto a church in various modifications . In doing so, he succeeded in creating a harmonious transition to the dome through a variety of variations and combinations of this motif on the facade. In 1559 he was entrusted by the Patriarch of Venice with the construction of a new facade of San Pietro di Castello , Palladio's first practical examination of the sacred building. In 1564 he received the order to rebuild the church of San Giorgio Maggiore on the island of San Giorgio di Castello and finally in 1576, as an order from the Signoria, the construction of the votive church Il Redentore on the island of Giudecca . These two churches, which Palladio also designed for their joint urban development effect in relation to the Doge's Palace and the piazza, the heart of the republic, still contribute significantly to the image of Venice around the Bacino.

His last small sacred building was the Tempietto Barbarano , a chapel for the family of his long-time patron Marcantonio Barbaro. The chapel with a portico reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome is a domed central building, of which Palladio says it is “the most perfect and outstanding form of places of worship ... because it is ultimately equidistant from the center in all its parts, it is the most suitable to testify to the unity, the infinite nature, the uniformity and the righteousness of God ”. Palladio did not live to see the completion of this church. He died on August 19, 1580.

Architectural theory

Title page of an edition of the "Quattro libri" from 1642

In 1554 Palladio published Antichità di Roma, a guide to the ancient buildings of Rome, and in 1570 the work I Quattro libri dell'architettura, illustrated by himself, with his own designs and numerous illustrations of ancient architecture.

The Quattro libri made Palladio, alongside Leon Battista Alberti, the most influential architectural theorist of the early modern period . After its translation into English by the architect Giacomo Leoni in 1715, Palladio's work mainly influenced the Protestant and Anglican architecture of Northern Europe ( Palladianism ). In this context, the (neo) Palladian style is often used. As “ Aristotle of architecture”, in contrast to Michelangelo, he impresses less with capricious individual works than with having found a classic, clear and easily comprehensible design language in numerous buildings. As a revival of antiquity, the renaissance reached its end in Palladio's classicism . The easy-to-understand design language also had an impact on what was later to be known as revolutionary architecture . In his later works, Palladio overcame strict classicism in the sense of early baroque .


Villa La Rotonda in Vicenza
Villa Godi in Lonedo di Lugo
Villa Barbaro in Maser
Villa Foscari called La Malcontenta on the Brenta Canal
Villa Emo

Guido Beltramini counts more than eighty main projects to Palladio's buildings, "including at least sixteen city palaces, thirty country estates, four public buildings, five bridges, fifteen churches, three theaters and nine other objects such as portals, grave monuments and triumphant festivals". Luca Trevisan describes other villas.

In 1994, 23 buildings attributed to Palladio in Vicenza and other villas in the Veneto region were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Palladio's buildings include:

Buildings of Palladio as a film set

The Villa Rotonda served as the framework for the film version of the opera Don Giovanni by Mozart by Joseph Losey .

In the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, the scenes of the film Casanova by Lasse Hallström , which are set in the University of Padua, were shot.


Palladio's writings

further reading

  • James S. Ackerman: Palladio . Hatje, Stuttgart 1980, ISBN 3-7757-0151-6 .
  • Guido Beltramini: Palladio. Traces of life. Wagenbach, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-8031-1260-6 (With a biographical sketch by Paolo Gualdo and an introduction by Andreas Beyer. Translated from the Italian by Victoria Lorini).
  • Guido Beltramini:  Palladio, Andrea. In: Raffaele Romanelli (ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 80:  Ottone I-Pansa. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 2014.
  • Bruce Boucher: Palladio. The architect in his time . Hirmer, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-7774-6440-6 .
  • Caroline Constant: The Palladian Leader . Vieweg, Braunschweig / Wiesbaden 1988, ISBN 3-528-08724-2 (Original title: The Palladio Guide . Translated by Christian Semler).
  • Joachim Fest : ideal of a new Arcadia. Fame and post-fame of Palladio . In: Past canceled. Portraits and reflections . DVA, Munich 1981.
  • Erik Forssman : Palladio's teaching building . Studies on the connection between architecture and architectural theory with Andrea Palladio. In: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, Stockholm studies in history of art . tape 9 . Almquist & Wiksell, Uppsala 1965.
  • Roland Freart: L'idée de la perfection de la peinture . Gregg International Publications, Farnborough 1998 (reprint of Mans 1662 edition).
  • Mathias Haenchen: On the development of the design principle in Andrea Palladio's work. In: Following Palladio's footsteps with Goethe (catalog for the exhibition of the Italy Center of the TU Dresden in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture and the Catholic Academy Dresden-Meißen), Dresden 2008.
  • George L. Hersey , Richard Freedman: Possible Palladian Villas. Plus a Few Instructively Impossible Ones. MIT Press, Cambridge and London 1992, 188 pp., ISBN 0-262-08210-1 or ISBN 0-262-58110-8 .
  • Theresa Isbarn-Böhm: Palladio's architectural language in Mecklenburg: Investigations into the Palladio reception in country houses from the middle of the 17th to the first half of the 19th century. 2007, DNB 1014206146 (Dissertation University of Greifswald 2007, 256, [130] pages, illustrated, ct., 30 cm).
  • Hanno-Walter Kruft: History of Architectural Theory - From Antiquity to the Present. Beck, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-406-30767-1 .
  • Werner Oechslin : Palladianism - Andrea Palladio, continuity of work and effect. gta, Zurich 2008, ISBN 978-3-85676-239-1 .
  • Volker Plagemann : The villas of Andrea Palladio. Ellert & Richter, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-8319-0462-4 .
  • Lionello Puppi, Donata Battilotti, Heinrich Helfenstein (photos): Andrea Palladio. The complete work . New edition. DVA, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-421-03253-X (Original title: Andrea Palladio . Translated by Madeleine Stahlberg, study edition: DVA, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-421-03060-X ).
  • Heinz Spielmann : Andrea Palladio and antiquity - investigation and catalog of the drawings from his estate. Deutscher Kunstverlag , Munich / Berlin 1966 (dissertation Technical University Stuttgart 1961, 185 pages, 24 sheets with illustrations, 4).
  • Andreas Beyer: Andrea Palladio. Teatro Olimpico. Triumphal architecture for a humanistic society. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-596-23937-0 . Changed and supplemented new edition: Wagenbach, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-8031-2625-2 .
  • Luca Trevisan (photographs by Luca Sassi): Palladio Villas. Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-421-03898-2 .
  • Christoph Ulmer: Andrea Palladio. Udine 2011. ISBN 978-88-7057-215-5 .
  • Manfred Wundram : Andrea Palladio 1508–1580. The rules of harmony . Taschen-Verlag, Cologne 2009, ISBN 978-3-8365-0286-3 (overview with 22 buildings, illustrated).


  1. The painting is by Francesco Boldrini, who at the end of the 18th century faked it as a painting by the painter Giovanni Battista Maganza, who was friends with Palladio (PDF; 96 kB). James S. Ackerman: “None of the many portraits that are supposed to depict Palladio is of certain provenance” (cf. ders .: Palladio. Hatje, Stuttgart 1980, p. 23).
  2. Nikolaus Pevsner, Hugh Honor, John Fleming: Lexikon der Weltarchitektur. 3rd edition Prestel Verlag, Munich 1990, p. 476.
  3. James S. Ackerman: Palladio. Hatje, Stuttgart 1980, p. 10, ISBN 3-7757-0151-6 .
  4. Sören Fischer: Paolo Veronese, Andrea Palladio and the Stanza di Bacco in the Villa Barbaro as Pliny the Younger's pavilion. In: Art History. (PDF; 678 kB).
  5. ^ Architectura. Les livres d'Architecture ( Memento of April 20, 2007 in the Internet Archive ). University of Tours .
  6. Guido Beltramini: Palladio. Traces of life. Wagenbach, Berlin 2008, p. 67.
  7. With fixed apparatuses are meant "ephemeral architectures" that are "set up along the route and blinded in front of the building facades" on the occasion of festive entrances by secular rulers or church dignitaries (Beltramini, p. 71).
  8. Luca Trevisan: Palladio Villas. 2012.
  9. Entry on the website of the UNESCO World Heritage Center ( English and French ).

Web links

Commons : Andrea Palladio  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Andrea Palladio  - Sources and full texts (Italian)