Like other Renaissance artists and architects, Palladio depended on drawing to practice as an architect. His surviving drawings date from throughout his career, from his earliest trips to Rome to his late commissions, unfinished at his death in 1580.
Palladio drew for many purposes: drawings could be used to capture the form and details of antique Roman remains and they were the means to gain commissions, impressing patrons through fine presentations.
By drawing, Palladio could think through a commission and solve technical and design problems.
Diagrams could be used to communicate with and educate workmen, instructing them in new methods and styles, and they could also be used to teach his assistants.
In effect, Palladio's drawings formed a record of his career, a database of architecture. Palladio amassed a large number of them and passed them on to his son at his death.
It is highly likely that Palladio collected drawings by other architects too, although exactly what he collected is difficult to ascertain.
It has long been assumed that a number of earlier or contemporary architectural drawings in the Burlington Devonshire Collection now at the RIBA were owned by Inigo Jones and may once have been the property of Palladio. These include:
- two drawings by Raphael
- studies of the cornice in the Pantheon, Rome
- a topographical view of the Palazzo Caprini, Rome
- an influential and long since demolished palace by Donato Bramante
- a map of Rome
There are also drawings by unknown hands for buildings such as the Villa Giulia, Rome by Raphael in which Palladio was very interested. One of these, remarkably, is carefully drawn on two pieces of paper joined together, one of which has a drawing by Palladio on one side and a drawing by Raphael on the other.