Andrea di Pietro, Palladio’s original name, was born in 1508. At age sixteen, in 1524, he joined the masonry and stonemason’s guild of Vicenza. For the next ten years, he is referred to as a stonemason In either 1536 or 1537, Trissino discovers the talent of the young mason Andrea di Pietro during the construction of the villa of Trissino in Cricoli near Vicenza.
Moreover, Trissino also greatly influenced the ideas of Palladio. The villa Cricoli of Trissino was designed by Trissino himself. His villa in Cricoli was used as the ‘Accademia Trissiana’. Students resided in the villa where they followed a very strict daily regime. Above the doors, in Greek and Latin, it said: ‘Study, art and virtue’. Trissino intended to connect monastic life with the tradition of the Greek philosophers. Palladio played an active part in the villa’s daily happenings.
Palladio and Trissino share a close bond. In the prologue to Palladio’s Quattro Libri dell’Architettura, the writer haisl Trissino as ‘the flower of our time’. Trissino introduced Palladio to Vitruvius and brought him along to Rome three times. The villa of Trissino was symmetrical and constructed according to proportional dimensions, something Palladio would also adopt later on. For his entire life, Palladio remained intrigued by the classics.
Palladio writes two small influential books after his first stay in Rome, both of which appeared in 1554:
Le Antichità di Roma [the antiquities of Rome] this book replaced the medieval book, Mirabilia UrbisRomae (The miracles of the city Rome), which was a kind of travel guide describing antique ruins with their history.
Descritione de le Chiese, Stationi, Indulgenze & Reliquie de’ Corpi Sancti, che sonno in la città de Roma (English edition). It is purely religious, describing Roman churches for any pilgrims.
1. Casa Civena 1540
2. Palazzo Thiene 1542
3. Basilica Palladiana 1549
4. Palazzo Chiericati 1550
5. Palazzo Iseppo Porto c. 1548
6. Casa Cogollo 1559 Palladio?
7. Palazzo Valmarana 1565
8. Palazzo Schio-Angaran before 1566
9. Palazzo Barbarano c. 1570
10. Loggia del Capitaniato 1571
11. Teatro Olimpico 1571
12. Palazzo Porto-Breganze c. 1570
A. Cathedral North portal
B. Santa Corona (chapel of Valmarana in crypt) 1576
His first book, ‘Le Antichità di Roma’, describes the classic ruins along with the exact dimensions. Palladio intended to bring together the latest advances in knowledge and spoke of ‘how desperately we all wanted to understand these antiquities’. The old books, so Palladio said, were ‘full of lies’. He presented a reliable report that greatly influenced archaeology. For nearly two hundred years, this was the go-to book if you wanted to know about ancient Rome. Stretching far into the eighteenth century, all Rome travel guides were based on Palladio.
Book I Orders and general problems
Book II Residence
Book III Public buildings and urban development
Book IV Temples ‘without which civilisation is impossible’
In the first two books, Palladio explains why he is writing his ‘Quattro Libri’. He is deeply moved by the remnants of antiquity. According to Palladio, the creation of architecture is a moral duty and, like Trissino, he perceived architecture as the highest form of art. Palladio’s plans for publication were prevented by his death. One-hundred-and-fifty years after his death, Lord Burlington released a part of his non-published works. Palladio refers to other architects whom he studied, with Alberti being referenced more than once. He saw Vitruvius as his ‘teacher and guide’. It is quite likely that no one knew Vitruvius better than Palladio.
Vitruvius ‘The Ten Books of Architecture’
Palladio constructed nearly all religious buildings in Venice, while his Palladio were predominantly situated in and around of Vicenza. Palladio designed only one palazzo in Venice, but this palace never left the drawing board. Venetians, who were not entirely fond of the ‘classic’ palazzi, were of a more traditional nature and rejected Palladio’s palazzi. Furthermore, the Venetian people had concerns about how these palaces would be financed. Rightly so, as not one of the private clients ever completed more than half of his palazzo. Only one public building was ever fully completed. In nearly all cases, the facade did see the light of day. Vicenza has ten facades designed by Palladio, usually harbouring not-so-original rooms behind them. Still, for centuries these facades and designs were of great influence. The ‘palladian’ that I taught you exists for a reason. In the 16th century, Vicenza was marked by a frenzy of construction activities like in Florence between 1445-1490.
We head North from the park where we will have a look at Palladio’s first building from circa 1540: the Casa Civena.
As a designer of palazzi – different from villas – Palladio did not become independent until quite late. Palladio’s first palace design drawings are of a rather amateur level. The Casa Civena in Vicenza comes from that same period of 1540. The building looks a lot like Serlio’s works, with the quality being rather mediocre compared to Palladio’s later works. The loggia on the ground floor are what you will often see in Italian cities, like in neighbouring city Padua. The open facade with arcades forms a screen along the streetway. Palladio wrote the following about this in his Quattro Libri:
“When one wishes to separate the pavement from where animals and carts ride, I would wish to see the street divided in such a way that porticos are constructed along both sides for citizens to walk under while they are shopping, without being obstructed by sun, rain or snow. Nearly all streets in Padua, that noteworthy city, famous for its university, are of this type.” Palladio, Quattro Libri II, 11
The Casa Civena is an old tradition that was subject to a classical Roman formula, as can be gathered from the segmented and triangular pediment. This palazzo has little to do with the second palazzo, the Palazzo Thiene, in Vicenza, which we will become evident later.
We continue our way North. Close by lies the Basilica Palladiana. This was Vicenza’s city hall.