Villa Molin, Ponte della Cagna, Padua, 1597
Photographer: unknown, 1950s
Architect: Vincenzo Scamozzi
Copyright: RIBA Library Photographs Collection
Palladio’s architectural treatise, 'I Quattro libri dell’ architettura' (the Four Books of Architecture), was published in Venice in 1570. Venice had a tradition of producing high quality illustrated books and the local aristocracy provided a ready clientele of highly educated readers. It is here that Sebastiano Serlio had published in 1537 the first volume of his own treatise which, just like those by Vitruvius (written in the 1st century BC) and Vignola (published in 1563), was a source of inspiration for Palladio’s treatise. What sets Palladio’s work apart though is the clarity and precision of both the text and the illustrations. Palladio concentrates on practical aspects of the building process while at the same time providing his readers with a set of rules and principles based on the examples of Roman antiquity. To these Palladio devotes one of the four books but the major novelty is the publication of his own projects for public and residential buildings. The text is written in the simple language familiar to contemporary architects and craftsmen and illustrated by measured drawings.
This formula proved extremely effective as a means of communication and is certainly one of the reasons behind the architect’s popularity and enduring influence on architectural developments not only in Italy but in Europe and later in North America.
Palladio’s legacy in his native region was equally long lasting. By the time of his death in 1580 his fame was established and his distinctive style already easily recognised.
His immediate successor was Vincenzo Scamozzi who completed a number of Palladio’s unfinished projects, including the Villa Rotonda and the Teatro Olimpico. A talented architect in his own right, he adopted and developed Palladio’s forms and spatial ideas in his own projects, the most important of which is the Procuratie Nuove in Piazza San Marco. This building was in turn completed by the great architect of Venetian Baroque, Baldassare Longhena, who probably studied under Scamozzi and clearly absorbed Palladio’s lesson into his own architectural language.
The influence of Palladio’s work in the Veneto however lasted well into the 18th century and is clearly visible in a vast number of villas and in the Venetian churches designed by Domenico Rossi, Andrea Tirali, Giovanni Scalfarotto and Tommaso Temanza.
Villa Rocca Pisani, Lonigo
Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
Villa Cordellina Lombardi, Vicenza
Church of the Maddalena, Venice