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Who is Andrea Palladio?

Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) was a Renaissance Italian architect who is today considered one of the most influential architects in the western world. Born Andrea di Pietro della Gondola in Padua, Italy, Palladio was something of a child prodigy. At the age of 13 he fled Padua and his apprenticeship as a stonecutter to move to Vicenza, where he was known to frequent the studio of Bartolemo Cavazza and from whom he learned the basics of the stonemasonry trade. However, for all his early promise, it wasn’t until his thirties that Palladio became the architect we know today, designing some of Italy’s most noteworthy and refined buildings.

Andrea Palladio really rose to architectural prominence when he received the patronage of the renowned humanist poet Giorgio Trissino. From Trissino Palladio received money and his fanciful moniker, taken from Pallas Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom. In 1549, he returned from a tour of classical Italy and began work on the basilica of his native Padua; the colonnades of which building are considered among his most famous works. The Triumphal Arch (or Arco di Trionfo) at Vicenza is also a remarkable architectural feat in that it reproduces the essence of classical Roman triumphal arches with great precision.

Andrea Palladio’s other works are equally famed for their balance and harmonious classical design. His creations are to be found throughout Vicenza and all demonstrate the architect’s commitment to Roman classical paradigms, proportion and symmetry. He designed a whole spectrum of edifices, but principally his energies were spent on the creation of churches, palaces and villas. Two examples of the latter are the Villa Rotonda and the Villa Malcontenta, which were commissioned by Venetian patrician families of the Venetian Republic.

Many of Andrea Palladio’s building remain today, as does his famous 1570 treatise on his craft entitled "The Four Books of Architecture". His treatise, and indeed his buildings, inspired later architects across the continent and in North America. Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones, in Britain, were admirers of Palladio’s structures, and indeed the latter was at the forefront of the First Palladian Revival that took place in Jacobean England. Later admires include architectural worthies such as Lord Burlington and Colen Campbell. George Washington's home at Mount Vernon, Virginia is also designed according to Palladian principles as are the palace of Tsarskoe Selo in Russia and Prior Park, England.

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