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andrea palladio

Artist: Andrea Palladio

Born: 30 November 1508, Padua, Italy

Died: 19 August 1580, Maser, Italy

Nationality: Italian

Movements: Renaissance

Most Prominent Works:

○ Villa Pisani (1544), Bagnolo;

○ Palazzo Chiericati (1550), Vancimuglio di Grumolo

delle Abbadesse, Veneto;

○ Villa Cornaro (1552-54), Piombino Dese, Treviso;

○ Villa Barbaro (1554), Maser;

Villa Capra (La Rotonda) (1566-91), Vicenza;

○ Villa Foscari (La Malcontenta) (1558-60), Mira,

near Venice;

○ Church of Il Redentore (1577-92), Venice.

Mediums: Painting, Drawing, Writing, Poetry

brief summary

Considered to be the last great ‘humanist architect’, Andrea Palladio is generally known for having greatly influenced Western architecture, more than any other Renaissance architect. Best known for his Villas, Palladio’s style is defined by proportions, symmetry, perspective and geometry. Today, all of his existing Villas are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Palladio is largely considered to be the last great ‘humanist architect’. In general, Palladio’s Architecture is thought to be of greater influence to the Western world than all of the other Renaissance architects combined. With an architecture that embodies  the classical tradition, he is considered to be the most influential individual in the history of European Architecture. With a profound sense of order and a great focus on the relationship between the parts and the whole, Palladio’s work exalts proportions, symmetry, perspective principles, geometry and values. Wittkower (1971) claims that Palladio’s contribution to the humanities: “ (…) was probably greater than any other architect of that period and can by no means be confined to architecture.”; Palladio is generally considered to be one of the greatest architects who have lived. Grounded in the idea that architecture could elevate the human soul, architectural forms and spaces echo and strive for  a universal sense of perfection. Reinterpreting ancient Roman architecture, he created contemporary architecture spaces aimed to be timeless.

Portrait of Andrea Palladio

Monument to Palladio in Vincenza (CC BY-SA 4.0, by Didier Descouens)


Palladio embodies the Renaissance ideal of humanism and classical principles. Palladio is deeply contextualized in the Republic of Venice area (where all his buildings are, and where he lived for all of his life). In fact, he was the only architect of the time that was trained in the Veneto, and thus was deeply influenced by Venetian tradition and the byzantine fantasies that also define the city. He was a contemporary of Veronese, Tintoretto, the sculptor Vittoria and the painter Titian (who died three years earlier to Palladio).

Basilica del Santissimo Redentore, Venice (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany)

La Rotonda, Vicenza (CC BY-SA 4.0, by Quinok)

Not much is known of Palladio’s life or personality. It is known that he was born in Padua, named Andrea di Pietro della Gondola and that he came from a humble background. He studied as a stonemason and sculptor in Padua. He was married to a daughter of a carpenter named Allegradonna, and together they had four sons and a daughter. When Andrea was 30 years old, patron Giangiorgio Trissino took him to Rome, where he studied the classical masterpieces, and where he adopted the name Palladio. Despite this, he spent most of his life between his birthplace, Padua, and Venice, the city where he created some of his masterpieces. It is also known that he was quite popular with clients, patrons and craftsmen. He was unpretentious, and never bought a house. In 1572, two of his sons died; this had a profound impact on Palladio who died in 1580, eight years later. Buried in the church of Santa Corona in Vicenza.

art style

Palladio matured with ease and in a sudden manner; although his initial work was considered to be ‘erratic in style’, his mature style and language is found in the Villas. Through  churches (mostly in Venice) and palaces (mostly in Vicenza), Palladio also finds the means to execute his ideals and principles. The Palazzo Chirericati, for example, completed in Vicenza in 1550, already portrayed Palladio’s ideals of harmony and beauty, with the architecture defined according to music ratios; and introduced an innovative way of conveying a central focus to the building, by the means of the tripartite division of the colonnaded elevation. A series of other Palazzos were completed in the same decade, in Vicenza. His last works were all located in Venice and comprise a vast body of work. There is a growing simplification of his ideals. His last church, the Tempieto Barbaro which was an addition to Villa Barbaro, unifies two forms in a perfect balance (the circle and the Greek cross), whereas the facade mirrors the Pantheon in Rome; like La Rotonda, it is widely considered a synthesis of all his ideals and principles. His last building was the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, which was completed after his death, and is still in use.

Palazzo del Capitanio – Vicenza (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Marcok)

Palazzo Chiericati (CC BY-SA 4.0, by Didier Descouens)

Cross section, Palazzo Chiericati

The Villas, which meant ‘country house’, served as a suburban retreat for wealthy Venetian merchants or bankers, who wanted to escape the busy city life, and needed an architecture that allowed for agricultural productions and social events (smaller and more complex versions of the town palazzos, which were combined with production). Palladio created an archetype that could be adapted to each specific site and need of each family and production, classicizing the rural architecture of the time; each Villa derived their name from the respective owners, and they were all deeply connected to the site; all built in rough brickwork, spaces were organized according to a main axis, using harmonious rations to define the relations between the whole and the parts. They all used elements of the classical temple, and all follow a simple character, devoid of superfluous decorations or additions. Palladio sometimes used loggia’s (a sort of recessed portico); these could be on the ground level or double loggias that defined both levels; they could also sometimes be accentuated by a pediment. The differences between them emerge as variations of the type, as adaptations to specific requirements and to the site. All of the 19 surviving Palladian Villas are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

La Rotonda (CC BY-SA 4.0, by Quinok)

Villa Barbaro (1554 – 1560) (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Hans A. Rosbach)

Villa Foscari (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Hans A. Rosbach)

Villa Valmarana (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Hans A. Rosbach)

Villa Porto (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Hans A. Rosbach)

Villa Emo in Fanzolo di Vedelago (1558), Treviso, Italy (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Marcok)

Palladio’s aim for architecture was to achieve a harmonious perfection. He strove for a ‘universal utility’ and ‘perfection’ which followed the classical tradition. Palladio’s work methodology is deeply related to the calculations of proportions and ratios in order to achieve the most harmonious relationships between the parts and the whole. Through mathematics, geometry, proportions and harmony, Palladio shaped spaces that accommodated even the most complex sides of man. Believing that these codes could elevate the human soul to a more virtuous and spiritual dimension, Palladio felt that architecture had this profoundly significant mission.

Tempietto Villa Barbaro (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Hans A. Rosbach)

Proportion which can generally be understood as the relationship between two measures, was widely studied and analysed by Palladio, who created his own systems of proportions. They were, what he believed to be, the codes of ‘universal design’ and of ‘divine harmony’. Elaborating on the codes created by Vitruvius and Alberti, he created his own system. The process followed a continuous subdivision of the overall whole into fragmentary parts, in order to create a proportional harmony throughout the entire structure, and further creating a greater sense of wholeness. These ideals of proportion follow the tradition defined by Pythagoras in Antiquity.

Tempietto Villa Barbaro

Portrait of Vitruvius (1823 or 1847) by Jacopo Bernardi

Portrait of Leon Battista Alberti (18th century)

Palladio’s first book entitled L’Antichida di Roma (Antiquities of Rome) was published in 1554. However his most notorious publication is his four volume book entitled Quattro libri dell’ architettura which was published in 1570. It had the objective of defining specific rules and principles that could be easily followed. The first volume was an approach to classical orders and styles, building materials, building elements and various techniques; the second approached the designs of the palazzos and country houses; the third included city planning and public programs such as basilicas, and lastly the fourth book approached ancient roman temples. The books were all richly illustrated with drawings created by Palladio turned into engravings for printing purposes. It has been translated in many different languages, and is one of the main reasons for the vast propagation of the Palladian style a couple of centuries later known as Palladianism, which could easily apply the principles due to Palladio’s clear and succinct directions.

I quattro libri dell’architettura by Andrea Palladio (cover)

I quattro libri dell’architettura by Andrea Palladio (1790) pag 311

Page from I quattro libri dell’architettura by Andrea Palladio, Libro III pagina 61


Palladio was deeply influenced by the architectural treatises of Vitruvius and Alberti. For Palladio, Vitruvius was his master and guide, who he considered to be the only ancient master of this art. He was also greatly inspired by classical architecture, especially the architecture he saw in Rome, including temples and ancient ruins. In fact some of Palladio’s facades were directly inspired by the Roman temple facades; the Roman temple had a profound influence on his views of architecture at various levels. Other references include the works of Cornaro-Falconetto, Bramante (most notoriously by the Tempietto) and Sebastiano Serlio who set the ground for Palladio’s treatise. He was also greatly influenced by Brunelleschi (1337-1446) who was the first architect to employ mathematical perspectives to redefine Gothic and Romanesque space, and designed the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Palladio was influenced by the work of the Mannerist architect Giulio Romano, notably in his Palazzo Thiene (c. 1545-1550). Other references include the works of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and of Michelangelo (1475-1564), especially their approach to humanistic principles. The Palazzo Valmarana, for example, exhibits the influence of Michelangelo in some of its Mannerist elements.

Pantheon | Pantheon, studied by Palladio for the Il Quattro Libri

Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence

Tempietto by Donato Bramante

Portrait of Sebastiano Serlio (1830) by Vincenzo Raggio

Palladio had a vast influence all over the world, and his legacy to the architectural world is incalculable; both his designs for churches and for villas had a significant importance. His style of his Villas echoed through the centuries that followed. He was the first to systemize the house plan that has been studied ever since. Palladio’s consistent use of the Greek-Roman inspired portico is also one of the most imitated architectural elements. His treatise on architecture was also responsible for the diffusion of the Classical style in Western architecture. The Legacy of Palladio and what has come to be known as his revival, Palladianism, is vastly significant. Palladian architecture, begun in the 17th century and developed until the end of the 18th century, is considered to be an evolution of Palladio’s original concepts and overall architectural design approach. Palladian approach was greatly attracted to the simple design, devoid of the theatrical drama of the architectural styles that were predominant at the time such as the baroque. In Britain, Anglo-Irish Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington and Colen Campbell were the dominant Palladian forces. A notorious example of Richard Boyle’s Palladian architecture is found in Chiswick House, completed in 1729. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, in Europe, it was popular and profoundly used in public buildings, after which it spread to the rest of the world, specially to the United States. The style was maintained through the use of his treatise in which the rules and principles are so clearly defined. For example, Mount Air, designed by John Ariss and built in 1764, is an example of a Neo-Palladian Villa; Palladio’s Rotonda is clearly referenced in Jefferson’s Rotunda (1822-1826) at University of Virginia; and the Classical portico is present at buildings such as the White House (1792-1800), designed by James Hoban. Besides this broad influence and legacy, specific works influenced specific creations; his design for the Tempietto Barbaro, for example, incorporated various ideas that would later be adopted by Baroque churches.

Chiswick House (1729), Earl of Burlington

Mount Air (1764), by John Ariss

Rotunda (1822-1826) by Thomas Jefferson, University of Virginia, USA

White House (1792-1800), by James Hoban


“Beauty will result from the form and correspondence of the whole, with respect to the several parts, of the parts with regard to each other and of these again with the whole; that the structure may appear an entire and complete body.”

“According to Vitruvius all building must consider three things without which they can not deserve any praise: these are la utilidad or comodidad (the utility or comfort), firmeza (firmness) and hermosura (beauty).’’

“I therefore hope, that the manner of building with universal utility be reduced, and soon brought to that pitch of perfection, which in all the arts is greatly desired, (…).’’

By J.S.. Ackerman (1996)

History of Modern Architecture
By L. Benevolo (1977)

The Four Books of Architecture
By A. Palladio (1965)

The Villas of Palladio
By K. Williams and G. Giaconi (2003)

Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism
By R. Wittkower  (1971)

By G. Smienk and J. Niemeijer (2011)

The Palladio Guide
By C. Constant (1993)

Italian Renaissance Architecture
By Andrea Palladio (2018)

Italian Renaissance Architecture
By Marco Bussagli (2012)

De Architectura
By Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (2008)

Classical Architecture: A Complete Handbook
By Robert Adam (1990)

Renaissance Thought
By Robert D. Black (2001)

significant works

Architect: Andrea Palladio
Basilica del Santissimo Redentore
Date: 1577-1592

Location: Venice, Italy
Image Credits: CC BY-SA 3.0, by Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany

Architect: Andrea Palladio
La Rotonda
Date: 1567 (groundbreaking)

Location: Vicenza, Veneto, Italy

Architect: Andrea Palladio
Tempietto Barbaro
Date: Begun in 1580

Location: Maser, Veneto, Italy
Image Credits: CC BY-SA 3.0, Hans A. Rosbach

Architect: Andrea Palladio
Palazzo del Capitanio
Date: 1571-1572

Location: Vicenza, Veneto, Italy
Image Credits: CC BY-SA 3.0, by Marcok

Architect: Andrea Palladio
Villa Emo in Fanzolo di Vedelago
Date: 1558-1561

Location: Treviso, Italy,
Image Credits: CC BY-SA 3.0, Marcok

Architect: Andrea Palladio
Villa Valmarana
Date: 1560s

Location: Vicenza, Veneto, Italy
Image Credits: CC BY-SA 3.0, Hans A. Rosbach

Architect: Andrea Palladio
Palazzo Chiericati
Date: 1550-1680

Location: Vicenza, Veneto, Italy
Image Credits: CC BY-SA 4.0, by Didier Descouens

Architect: Andrea Palladio
Villa Porto
Date: Designed in 554

Location: Vicenza, Veneto, Italy
Image Credits: CC BY-SA 3.0, Hans A. Rosbach

Architect: Andrea Palladio
Villa Foscari
Date: 1550-1560

Location: Vicenza, Veneto, Italy
Image Credits: CC BY-SA 3.0, Hans A. Rosbach, Marcok

Architect: Andrea Palladio
Villa Piovene
Date: 1539
Location: Vicenza, Veneto, Italy
Image Credits: CC BY-SA 3.0, Hans A. Rosbach, Marcok

Architect: Andrea Palladio
Villa Barbaro
Date: 1554 – 1560
Location: Vicenza, Veneto, Italy
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, by Hans A. Rosbach