Andrea Palladio (1508-1580)

Also known as Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, Palladio is one of the most important architects in history. Father of Palladianism, the Neo-Classical Architecture Movement in 16th Century.

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Old portrait of Andrea Palladio, 1576, oil on canvas, Villa Valmarana "ai nani", Vicenza, Italy.
Old portrait of Andrea Palladio, 1576, oil on canvas, Villa Valmarana “ai nani”, Vicenza, Italy.

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A 16th century Venetian architect, Palladio devoted himself to creating architectural masterpieces that reflected the order, harmony, and reason of Classical architecture: the architectural styles of Ancient Greece and Rome. He was particularly inspired by Vitruvius.

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About his life

Andrea di Pietro dalla Gondola, was born in Padua on Nov. 30, 1508.

In 1521 he was apprenticed for 6 years to a local stonecutter;

3 years later he broke the contract and moved to Vicenza, where he was immediately enrolled in the guild of masons and stonecutters. His first opportunity came about 1538 while he was working as a stone carver on the reconstruction of the Villa Cricoli, near Vicenza, owned by the local humanist Giangiorgio Trissino, who had a classical school for young Vicenzan nobility.

Trissino gave Andrea his humanist name Palladio as a reference to the wisdom of the Greek goddess Pallas Athene.


The buildings of the Italian architect  were the most refined of the Renaissance period. Through them and his book on architectural theory he became the most influential architect in the history of Western art.

Andrea Palladio with further study of ancient Roman architecture, refined the classical mode to produce an elegant architecture befitting the opulent culture of the Veneto in the third quarter of the century.

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Classical Elements

The basis of Palladian architecture was the use of Classical elements from ancient Roman and Greek architecture, notably a use of balanced, rational, and geometric forms. These sorts of elements define the classical aspects of Palladian architecture: a rational, mathematic use of classical elements and calm organization of space.

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Palladian Architecture

Probably Palladio’s first independent design was the Villa Godi (ca. 1538-1542) at Lonedo. Its simplified, stripped-down style reveals very little influence of ancient architecture, but its emphasis on clean-cut cubical masses foreshadows his mature style.

Villa Godi by Andrea Palladio, Lugo di Vicenza, Veneto, northern Italy.
Villa Godi by Andrea Palladio, Lugo di Vicenza, Veneto, northern Italy.

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The Casa Civena (1540-1546) in Vicenza, with its paired Corinthian pilasters above the ground-floor arcade, is more in the Roman High Renaissance manner, perhaps inspired by the publications of Sebastiano Serlio.

Palazzo Civena in Vicenza, designed by Andrea Palladio.
Palazzo Civena in Vicenza, designed by Andrea Palladio.

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Palladio created on the mainland around Venice a magnificent series of villas for the Venetian and Vicenzan nobility. The most renowned is the Villa Capra, or the Rotonda (1550-1551, with later revisions), near Vicenza. It is a simplified, cubelike mass capped by a dome over the central, round salon and has identical temple front porches on the four sides of the block.

Villa La Rotonda by Andrea Palladio, Vicenza, Italy. This house, later known as 'La Rotonda', was to be one of Palladio's best-known legacies to the architectural world. Villa Capra may have inspired a thousand subsequent buildings, but the villa was itself inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.
Villa La Rotonda by Andrea Palladio, Vicenza, Italy.

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Palladio’s first architecture in the city of Venice was the commencement of the monastery of S. Giorgio Maggiore, whose refectory he completed (1560-1562). This was followed by the church of S. Giorgio Maggiore (1565-1610), which has a basilical plan with apsidal transept arms and a deep choir.

San Giorgio Maggiore is a 16th-century Benedictine church on the island of the same name in Venice, northern Italy, designed by Andrea Palladio, and built between 1566 and 1610. The church is a basilica in the classical renaissance style and its brilliant white marble gleams above the blue water of the lagoon opposite the Piazzetta and forms the focal point of the view from every part of the Riva degli Schiavoni.
San Giorgio Maggiore island, Venice, Italy.

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Other masterpieces
  • 1542 (built 1542 – 1560): Villa Valmarana, for Giuseppe and Antonio Valmarana, Vigardolo di Monticello Conte Otto, Province of Vicenza;
  • c. 1554 (built 1554 – 1558): Villa Barbaro, for Daniele and Marcantonio Barbaro, Maser, Province of Treviso;
  • before 1556 (built 1559 – 1565): Villa Emo, for Leonardo Emo, Fanzolo di Vedelago, Province of Treviso.

Palladio is one of the most influential figures in the whole development of Western architecture.

His palaces and villas were imitated for 400 years all over the Western world.

he was the first architect to systematize the plan of a house and consistently to use the ancient Greco-Roman temple front as a portico, or roofed porch supported by columns (this was probably his most imitated architectural feature), and finally, in his “I quattro libri dell’architettura”, he produced a treatise on architecture that, in popularizing classical decorative details, was possibly the most influential architectural pattern book ever printed.

The influence of Palladio’s buildings and publications reached its climax in the architecture of the 18th century, creating a style known as Palladianism, which in turn spread to all quarters of the world.

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