Collecting Palladio

John Oliver

The Blue Coat School, Christ's Hospital, Newgate, London

John Oliver
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection

"John Oliver, the City surveyor, hath all [Jones's] papers and designs, not only of St Paul's Cathedral etc. and the Banquetting House, but his designe of all Whitehall". 

So commented John Aubrey, society writer of the day. Aubrey does not mention Palladio's name, and only lists London buildings by Jones. Nevertheless, it is likely that the collection of Palladio drawings handed down from Inigo Jones to John Webb were bought by John Oliver.

As assistant Surveyor of St Paul's Cathedral, and much involved in surveying the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666, Oliver undoubtedly had a professional interest in Jones's and Palladio's drawings.

Oliver worked closely with Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, as demonstrated by the commission of the Blue Coat School, Christ's Hospital, Newgate, shown here. This raises some interesting questions: did Wren have access to Palladio's drawings? Did they influence him, in method if not style?

Oliver's interest in Palladio is also evident in a copy of the 1570 edition of I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura with a manuscript English translation and Oliver's name on the title page, last seen on the London art market in 1972.

However, Oliver's few surviving buildings show little of Palladio's influence. Oliver sold the Palladio drawings to William Talman.