Collecting Palladio

John Talman

Preliminary design for a villa near Hampton Court Palace, London

John Talman
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection

John Talman, son of William Talman, undertook a prolonged Grand Tour from 1709 – 1717 and so was likely to have had direct experience of Palladio's buildings, as well as access to his father's collection of Palladio's drawings. Although not a practising architect, he produced a number of Utopian schemes exploring all manner of architectural styles.

In 1719 he inherited his father's drawings by Jones, Webb and Palladio, and went on to enlarge the collection. In 1724 it was described as being contained in over 200 volumes.

It is difficult to show the direct influence of Palladio in the Talmans' work. Palladio is there, but so are many other architects and buildings.

This design for the Trianon, Hampton Court Palace (circa 1700) reveals this eclecticism. The building was to be a pavilion - a fun palace - for King William III, set in the gardens, a short distance from the main buildings of Hampton Court.

The Talmans produced several schemes for the building. Most were heavily decorated, their skylines animated with steep roofs, sculptures and towers punching the air. On this one sheet, for example, he offered two alternative designs, both bristling with energy. This vivacity continued into the interior.

Father and son's drawings reveal a delight in variety. Their interior designs are busy affairs, chock-a-block with decoration, and, unusually for the period, colour. They also studied medieval architecture and stained glass. These and other architects' drawings fired their imagination.

John Talman sold his Palladio, Jones and Webb drawings to Lord Burlington, who was keen to promote Palladian ideas in Britain. The rest of Talman's collection was broken up and sold after his death.