Palladio under the microscope

Drawing instruments

Drawing instruments

Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection

An even line is essential for any geometrical drawing, and Palladio would have used some sort of styli, that is a blunt pointed instrument, to score lines into paper. Construction lines appear on most of his scale drawings. An example of incision lines can be seen in Palladio under the microscope, detail of X/18 Plan of the Villa Madama.

He would also have used ruling pens. Thesehad adjustable blades that combined to form a nib and gave control over the thickness of the lines produced. A brush was used to put the ink into the pen to keep the outer surface of the nib clean.

Prior to the rise in popularity of the ruling pen, Palladio would have used a quill pen, although this did not give the same degree of accuracy or variation of line.The ruling pens would have been fairly crude compared to the instruments of today, and were usually made from brass. Clearly, Palladio was a superbly skilled draughtsman.

Palladio used dividers and a needle pricker to measure, copy, connect points and join angles. Many of the drawings by Palladio in the RIBA Drawings Collection show incision lines and construction holes where he has done this.

Tracing paper was not available in Palladio's time, so for copying and connecting points these instruments were essential. Chalk was also used, however it did not give the same degree of precision and was not a very clean method of copying.

Other drawing instruments such as proportionalcompasses, ruled edges, set squares and protractors would have helped Palladio to draw and measure.

A set of drawing instruments made from steel damascened with gold and silver details are on display in the Palladio 500 exhibition. These date from around 1540 and are similar to those that Palladio probably used, although it is likely that his were less decorative.

Drawing instruments were often presented in carry cases. An example from the 18th century can be seen on display in the V&A and RIBA Architecture Gallery. Those used by Palladio would have been in essence much the same.