Andrea Palladio, The Most Influential Renaissance Architect

Inspiration for the Palladian Window (1508-1580)

Portrait of Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) engraved in 19th century by R Woodman
Portrait of Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) engraved in 19th century by R Woodman. Photo by The Print Collector/Hulton Archive Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Born in Renaissance Italy, Andrea Palladio transformed architecture not only during his lifetime, but also in today's Western architectural designs.

Andrea Palladio is often described as the most influential and most copied architect in Western civilization after the Middle Ages. Drawing inspiration from Classical architecture, Palladio designed with columns and pediments to create carefully proportioned buildings that continue to be models for stately homes and government buildings in Europe and America.

One of the many architectural features inspired by Palladio is the popular Palladian window, readily used and misused in today's upscale suburban neighborhoods.

Palladio's Four Books of Architecture was widely translated, a work that quickly spread Palladio's ideas throughout Europe and into the New World of America. American statesman Thomas Jefferson borrowed Palladian ideas when he designed Monticello, Jefferson's home in Virginia.

Palladio's Background:

Born: November 30, 1508 in Padua, Italy

Died: August 19, 1580 in Vicenza, Italy

Full Name: Born Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola, he was later named Palladio after the Greek goddess of wisdom. The new name is said to have been given to him by an early employer and supporter, the scholar and grammarian Gian Giorgio Trissino (1478-1550).

Palladio's Early Training:

  • Apprenticed to a stone cutter when he was 13 years old
  • Became an assistant in the masonry workshop of Giacomo da Porlezza in Vicenza
  • Learned the principles of classical architecture when he worked on new additions for a villa owned by Gian Giorgio Trissino in Cricoli.

Important Buildings by Palladio:

As a youthful stone cutter in his 20s, Palladio worked on renovating Villa Trissino a Cricoli from 1531 to 1538. This apprenticeship proved to be the opportunity that brought his work to the attention of the older and well-connected Gian Giorgio Trissino.

By the 1540s, Palladio was using classical principles to design a series of country villas and urban palaces for the nobility of Vicenza. One of his most famous is Villa Capra, also known as the Rotunda, which was modeled after the Roman Pantheon. Palladio also designed the Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza and Villa Foscari (or La Malcontenta) near Venice. In the 1560s he began work on religious buildings in Venice. The great basilica San Giorgio Maggiore is one of Palladio's most elaborate works.

Writings by Palladio:

Using the new technology of movable type, Palladio published a guide to the classical ruins of Rome. In 1570, he published his masterwork: I Quattro Libri dell' Architettura, or The Four Books of Architecture. This important book outlined Palladio's architectural principles and provided practical advice for builders. Detailed woodcut images of Palladio's drawings illustrate the work.

Learn More:

Source: Villa Trissino a Cricoli at visitpalladio.com [accessed November 28, 2016]