The Renaissance produced a wealth of great skill and craftsmanship. Describe in detail the work of one of its great artists or architects.
Andrea Palladio (1508-80) was one of the most influential figures of Renaissance architecture, who worked in Vicenza in northern Italy as well as in Venice and the surrounding Veneto.
Born in Padua, Palladio trained as a stonemason moving to Vicenza in 1524 to continue his training. Giangiorgio Trissino (1478-1550), his patron, introduced him to classical and humanist studies and took him on his first trip to Rome – where he later spent two years studying. His architectural development was deeply influenced by this direct study of Roman antiquity.
Trissino’s patronage gave Palladio access to a powerful humanist circle who provided him with commissions for the duration of his career – including Palladio’s public projects such as the Palazzo della Ragione, or Basilica, and the Teatro Olimpico which together permanently changed Vicenza’s public architecture.
Originally a Gothic town hall, the Palazzo della Ragione or Basilica (commissioned in 1549), was on the verge of crumbling and Palladio won a competition to redesign it. His answer was to encase it on three sides with a two-storey loggia that provided reinforcement and transformed the exterior with classic columned arcades on two levels. Arches were placed between pilasters, Doric on the lower level, Ionic above, supporting entablatures. In each bay, the arch rests on small columns placed away from the larger pilasters with a rectangular gap in between - now known as the ‘Palladian motif’.
Palladio had an exceptional grasp of the use of proportion in classical architecture and believed beautiful architecture improved people’s lives and their behaviour. He aimed to create architectural perfection through symmetry; proportion - based on the human body’s proportions; the classical Orders; sculptural decoration and pioneering construction and engineering.
Venetian rule and the corresponding extended period of peace and stable government encouraged economic success in Vicenza and the Veneto and an energetic period of architectural regeneration - existing tower houses and small buildings were superseded by larger houses and palaces which showed off the prosperity of the city’s land-owning nobility. The countryside landscape was permanently altered and a new style of country home – the villa – was built.
Palladio created a new form for these villas by reinventing the Veneto tradition of rural architecture – a central house with a portico or loggia across part of the façade, a horizontal room plan and two symmetrical end towers – using his newly obtained classical insights.
Examples include the Villa Barbaro at Maser (begun c. 1550) which has a middle building – resembling a temple - between extended arms. The interior plan is characteristically Palladian with a Greek cross plan using a central space with smaller rooms slotted into...