Collecting Palladio

Lord Burlington and his proteges

 

 

Verso of Palladio's conjectural reconstruction of the Baths of Nero, Rome

Verso of Palladio's conjectural reconstruction of the Baths of Nero, Rome Enlarge image

Verso of Palladio's conjectural reconstruction of the Baths of Nero, Rome
Henry Flitcroft
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collection

Copy of Andrea Palladio's conjectural reconstruction drawings of the Baths of Agrippa, Rome, prepared for Lord Burlington: elevation and sections

Copy of Andrea Palladio's conjectural reconstruction drawings of the Baths of Agrippa, Rome, prepared for Lord Burlington: elevation and sections Enlarge image

Copy of Andrea Palladio's conjectural reconstruction drawings of the Baths of Agrippa, Rome, prepared for Lord Burlington: elevation and sections
Henry Flitcroft
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collection

 

Lord Burlington prized his drawing collection. Like Talman, he bound them into volumes, sometimes confusing designs by Palladio and Inigo Jones. This contributed to the varied nature of Neo-Palladianism. Repeatedly, Lord Burlington returned to this source material for inspiration. He also expected his protégés to absorb their lessons.

Henry Flitcroft and Isaac Ware were set the demanding task of copying Palladio's drawings. The marked backs, or recto, of many drawings testify to this. Having chalked a drawing's recto and placed a sheet below, they carefully traced over Palladio's lines. This example shows the Baths of Agrippa, worked on by Flitcroft. The task must have ingrained Palladio's principles on their minds, inspiring them in their own commissions.  

Now others in Burlington's circle could consult copies of Palladio's drawings. Significantly, these tracings facilitated Isaac Ware's magnificent new edition of I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (1737-8). Over time, Palladio's original sixteenth-century woodcuts had been corrupted with inaccuracies and decorative additions. Ware replaced these with finely-detailed and shaded engravings, much closer to Palladio's original drawings. Ware's dedication to Burlington makes this clear:

'Your giving me free access to your study, wherein many of the original drawings of Palladio, besides those which compose this work, are preserved… are such instances of your love for the arts, and of your friendship to me…'

Burlington's drawings by Palladio not included in I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura were regarded as especially precious. This was the unknown Palladio. Burlington had Flitcroft refine his tracings, as can be seen with the revised drawing of the Baths of Agrippa. These then featured in 'Fabbriche antiche, disegnate da Andrea Palladio Vicentino' (circa 1730), proudly published by Burlington himself. A splendid, costly book, few were printed; they were only available to Burlington's select group.

By the time of his death, Burlington's extensive collection of Palladian drawings had become pivotal to the development of British architecture.