Collecting Palladio

John Webb

Design for a single-storey house based on a circular plan with rectangular projections on the axes: elevation and plan

This particular design was included in engraved form in William Kent's publication 'Designs of Inigo Jones, II' (1727).
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection


John Webb studied under Inigo Jones, working as a draftsman on his projects. He went on to become England's leading architect in the late 1640s and 1650s.

Webb made copies of Palladio's drawings, possibly as part of his training, and these are held in the collections of the RIBA British Architectural Library.

Jones left his collection of Palladio drawings, along with his own, to Webb who was a successful architect by this time. Clearly, Jones wanted to make sure that they went to someone who would make good use of them.

At the height of his success, Webb worked on grandiose country houses. The Vyne, Hampshire was the first in England to have a portico, something that was to become typical of 18th-century Neo-Palladianism. His design for Wilton House in 1648 also became influential amongst 18th-century architects, and was much copied. However, this design was attributed to Jones: Webb's name had largely been forgotten by this time.

Like Inigo Jones, Webb knew the value of books and drawings. With Jones, it appears that he was assembling material for a treatise on architecture. As this example shows, Webb borrowed much from Palladio. The format of the pages is close to I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura. The design is based on the Villa Rotonda, albeit circular in plan, not square. And Webb's delicate drawing style is in close imitation to Palladio's.

At his death, Webb bequeathed his library of architectural drawings to his son William with instructions to

"keepe them intire together without selling or imbezzling any of them". 

This was ignored: some of the books were already for sale in 1675, and William's widow sold most of the drawings to John Oliver.

A few of the drawings escaped this sale and were later bought by Dr George Clarke, who bequeathed them to Worcester College, Oxford, where they remain.