Collecting Palladio

Dukes of Devonshire

Design for Chatsworth House, Derbyshire: perspective view of the west and south fronts

Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection

In 1753, Lord Burlington's large collection of drawings by Andrea Palladio passed to his daughter Charlotte, wife of the future 4th Duke of Devonshire. 

The collection seems to have stayed at Chiswick House in Middlesex, and was not looked at by any architect or scholar for many years. Then in 1845, two founding members of the RIBA, Ambrose Poynter and Thomas Leverton Donaldson, inspected them and published a brief list. 

The drawings then disappeared again from public knowledge until 1892, when they were placed on loan at the RIBA by the 8th Duke of Devonshire, together with drawings by Inigo Jones and John Webb.

The Duke sold Chiswick House in 1894, and converted the collection to a gift in trust to the RIBA. Perhaps the most remarkable of the conditions attached to this generous act was that should the institute cease to exist within 25 years of the last surviving great-grandchild of Queen Victoria, the collection should revert to the Dukes of Devonshire. There are still great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria living.

This exceptional collection of drawings by Andrea Palladio is still looked after by the RIBA today. Once the preserve of the most influential architects in Britain, they can now be viewed by prior appointment by visiting the RIBA Architecture Study Rooms.