Palladio: Palazzi Valmarana, Porto in piazza Castello and del Capitaniato

Palazzo Valmarana      Wikipedia

Palladio Palazzo Valmarana  Vicenza
photos: David Nicholls

Giovanni Antonio Fasolo ‘Valmarana family’

Giovanni Antonio Fasolo 'Valmarana family'

‘The family of Gianalvise Valmarana, portrayed together with his wife Isabella Nogarola and eight of their twelve children. From left to right: the head of the family, a politician and supporter of Palladio, then the consort who is holding Massimiliano in his arms and who will continue the construction of the family palace after the death of her husband. Follow Margherita, Penelope, Ascanio, brave man of arms already in knight’s clothes, Isotta, Antonio, Deianira, and finally Leonardo astride his wooden horse.’  Source: Wikipedia (Italian)

Palladio’s more mature style, for example palazzo Valmarana, arose entirely from his own personal development. You cannot label it. It’s unique. Moreover, this labelling of mannerism completely ignores the peculiarities of having to construct in a city. The adjacent buildings, and the shape of the plot, all of these factors can be quite erratic. It does not always lend itself towards the old Vitruvian principle of perfect symmetry and symmetria.

Valmarana has a simple layout,  insofar that nothing was added for added optical or symbolic effect like with the colossal peristylium in the palazzo Iseppo Porto. Only the front half of the design has been carried out and it still works well.

Palazzo Valmarana facade

The facade of Valmarana (facade xilografia) has been discussed many times. It is Palladio’s solution to a narrow street. The outermost bays are obviously different and they lack the colossal pilasters. The corners have that the effect that the facade is neutralised on the sides against the adjacent facades. The colossal, smooth pilasters have an integrating effect against the adjacent facades. Presumably, the use of this colossal order was inspired by Michelangelo, who for example used this order for the outside of the St. Peter. The model of the St. Peter was completed in 1547, while Palladio in 1554 still visited Rome some 7 years later.

Palladio Palazzo Valmarana facade Vicenza
photo: Hans A. Rosbach
Palazzo Valmarana  detail: Statue Palladio
photo: Marcok

The manner in which Palladio shaped the corner bays is not entirely devoid of irony. He learned this from Giulio Romano: a mannerist by definition. Not only has the colossal order disappeared, all other additions have also changed. This applies, for example, to the reliefs that are changed in the windows or the pediments implemented in the corners. These were simple jokes, but architectonic purists weren’t laughing. Still, it is a classical approach, as the corners at the palazzo Porto are also emphasised by other elements, while both facades have statues on the corners above the skyline (at least, on the drawings). The facade of the San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice also solves the sudden transition of colossal to small orders at the corners by means of statues. Both the San Giorgio and the palazzo Valmarana dictate the sudden transition at the corners. The inscription  above the entrance reads that in September 1581, Maria of Austria visited the Palazzo Valmarana along with her entourage. This must have been the same year as when the palace was completed.

Then we go back to the main street and arrive at the Piazza del Castello where the Palazzo Porto-Breganze is located.

Palazzo Porto-Breganze       Facade Xilografia       Zoom in

Palazzo Porto-Breganze Vicenza
Wikipedia and Krzysztof Golik

The palazzo Porto-Breganze with its colossal columns has garlands between the capitals and the high basements with the columns on top, and is a near-replica of the San Giorgio Maggiore. What would it take for the two bays evolve into an actual palazzo?

Paolo Veronese ‘Vincenzo Scamozzi’ c. 1584

Vincenzo Scamozzi, who supervised the construction, wrote in his Idea della Archittetura Universale from 1615 that he completed this palazzo following a number of changes. Scamozzi didn’t even name Palladio as a designer, much like he never named Palladio out of jealousy. As a theoretician, Scamozzo greatly influenced the world of architecture with his books, in the Netherlands, too. In 2008, a Dutch translation appeared of one of Scamozzi’s works, part VI, : Vincenzo Scamozzi, ‘De grondgedachten van de universele bouwkunst Architect te Venetië Klassieke zuilenorden’, Architectura & Natura Pers, Amsterdam 2008 (book review Dutch) and for Vincenzo Scamozzi Annotations to Daniele Barbaro Commentary on Vitruvius De Architectura, click here (pdf download)

The current palazzo is only one room wide. It ends with a courtyard, with at the back half a floor of semi-columns that clearly went in a circle as if it were a theatre wall. This was a novel idea, likely coming from Palladio himself. The sides clearly show that the columns of Palladio consisted of ordinary red brick. The original white stuccowork that was to give the impression of precious stone is hardly discernible anymore in 2007.

Palazzo del Capitaniato

Piazza dei Signori       Zoom in

Vicenza Piazza dei Signori   
View from Basilica Palladiana on Palazzo del Capitaniato
photo: David Nicholls

View from Basilica Palladiana on Palazzo del Capitaniato

The Palazzo del Capitaniato, situated across from the basilica at the north side of the large Piazza dei Signori, is a late work of Palladio and stands in stark contrast with the basilisk. 

Palazzo del Capitaniato

Palladio Palazzo del Capitaniato
photo: David Nicholls

Stuccowork and column

This latest building is clearly a product of the renaissance, while the Palazzo del Capitaniato announced baroque. One important feature of this facade is the horror vacui (the fear of empty space): all wall planes disappear among a confusing mix-up of stuccowork reliefs, some of which have crumbled. The small scale and the flatness of the stuccowork are in strong contrast with the pronounced high-relief of the larger architectural types.

Palladio used the Arch of Septimius Severus from Rome as a classical example of exuberant decorations. With the exception of the figures in the spandrels, all reliefs on the Loggio del Capitaniato are intended to be trophies all antica. The side wall depicts all six allegorical figures.

 Palazzo del Capitaniato detail: Stuccowork  column
photo: Marcok

Palazzo del Capitaniato

Palladio Palazzo del Capitaniato Vicenza
Palazzo del Capitaniato side
photo: Marcok

Palazzo del Capitaniato

The two figures at the bottom represent victory and peace, with the following annotations: ‘I rest, undisturbed by war’ and ‘The ships that have brought us victory’. The last annotation refers to Lepanto, the Turks were defeated there in 1571. Many attributes refer to water. The city council was in quite a rush to complete the Loggia. The victory over the Turks was announced in Vicenza, under authority of Venice, on the 18th of October (the Turks were defeated on the 7th of October 1571). Palladio, impressed by the victory, changed the original design of the loggia. The triumphal arch motif was placed in the side wall. Not a sensible move architecture-wise, but political interests trumped artistic interests in this case. When we arrive, we will further examine and discuss this striking building.

We walk east to arrive at the Teatro Olimpico via the Corso Andrea Palladio.

The Corso Andrea Palladio

Corso Andrea Palladio Vicenza
photo: Zairon

Continuation Vicenza Palladio: Teatro Olimpico and Palazzo Chiericati