Andrea Palladio: His Life and Legacy by Royal Academy 31 January–13 April 2009; Palladio by Edited by Guido Beltramini & Howard Burns - review by David Watkin

David Watkin

The Classics

Andrea Palladio: His Life and Legacy




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Palladio can claim to be the most imitated architect in history, but there are, in fact, a number of different Palladios. This reviver of the pure architecture of antiquity, this disciple of Vitruvius, also wrote a popular guide to Rome which concentrated on miracle-working relics, shrines, saints, legends, and precise calculation of the varying number of years off purgatory that could be obtained by gaining indulgences through visiting churches on particular days. This was certainly not what was wanted by Lord Burlington and his followers who promoted a Palladian revival from the 1720s. They admired, rather, the pure white forms of which Palladio was capable in some of his pristine villas. Rudolf Wittkower was so taken by such supposedly mathematical purity that he came close to presenting Palladio as a precursor of Mies van der Rohe in his influential book, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (1949). 

There was, however, a third Palladio, which Burlington and Wittkower did not want to see: this is the architect of Mannerist buildings with rich, layered, textures such as the Loggia del Capitaniato and Palazzo Valmarana in Vicenza, the sculptural Villa Barbaro at Maser, and the Villa Sarego with

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