Frontispiece (left page) to Lord Burlington's 'Fabbriche Antiche, Disegnate da Andrea Palladio Vicentino', (c.1730)
Copyright: RIBA Library Photographs Collection
Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580) was born Andrea di Pietro in Padua, a city in northern Italy then ruled by the Venetian Republic.
From a relatively humble background, Palladio rose to become one of the most influential architects of all time, famous for both his buildings and books, above all I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (the Four Books of Architecture).
Most of his career was based in and around the city of Vicenza. It was here that he was apprenticed as a stone mason, handling materials and understanding the practicalities of construction. It was also here that he met Giangiorgio Trissino, Renaissance scholar and amateur architect.
Trissino took Andrea under his wing. He gave him his first architectural commission, educated him and introduced him into polite society. He took him to Rome, and even gave him a new name – Palladio.
Travel transformed Palladio's understanding of architecture. In Rome he observed and sketched ancient Roman ruins and buildings. He also journeyed throughout Italy, Provence and Croatia, studying and drawing wherever he went.
His understanding of architecture was developed further by extensive reading. He was particularly influenced by Vitruvius's 'De Architectura', the only architectural treatise to survive from antiquity, and fifteenth and sixteenth-century writers such as Alberti, Serlio and Vignola.
As a result of this study, Palladio's career took off. He designed many villas and palaces for the noble families of Vicenza, transforming the city and countryside around. After 1560, he gained commissions in Venice, notably the great churches of San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore.
His reputation was cemented by the publication of the I Quattro Libri dell' Architettura (1570). A landmark in book design, it was the first time an architect published his own works. Palladio died in 1580, leaving an outstanding legacy, built and in print.