Palladio under the microscope

The condition of Palladio's drawings

Palladio drawings before conservation

III/7, III/8, Baths of Nero, Andrea Palladio (c.1540)
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection

The drawings by Palladio held in the RIBA Library Drawings Collection are, on the whole, in good condition.

This is because Palladio used good quality materials. He was a man with an eye for excellence in all elements of construction, and the creation of drawings was no different.

There have, however, been some conservation problems with the drawings.

Lord Burlington pasted all of the drawings into 17 volumes during the 18th century in order to protect them and keep them together.

Unfortunately eighteenth-century glue was animal-based and over time this has caused damage, discolouring the paper and making it brittle at the edges. Old mounts applied in the 18th century have also deteriorated with age causing damage.

The drawings have also deteriorated as a result of:

  • fluctuations in environmental conditions
  • planar distortion, buckling: a soft concave/convex random distortion of the paper
  • planar distortion, cockling: a soft concave/convex distortion of the paper in parallel repeated ripples
  • planar distortion, draw: a local distortion of cockling at the corners
  • poor quality mounting and lining techniques
  • folding and creasing
  • heavy earlier repairs and tearing, deterioration of glue
  • ink from red borders offsetting from one drawing to another and seeping into the papers substrate
  • ink corrosion causing the paper to fracture

While Palladio used the best materials available at the time, we do not know if he intended his drawings to last for 500 years!