Andrea Palladio

The renaissance in Europe has been one of the most defining moments in history and the Italian renaissance brought forth many talented artistes including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Andrea Palladio etc. Andrea Palladio may be described as perhaps one of the most famous among the architects of the renaissance. Architects have used his designs for the past four hundred and fifty years.


Andrea Palladio was born on November 30 in the year 1508 in Padua, Italy. He was named Andrea di Pietro della Gondolla but he attained his fame under the name Andrea Palladio. He was the son of Pietro della Gondolla, a miller and Marta. At the age of thirteen he was apprenticed to a stonecutter in Padua. It is said that after eighteen months he left Padua and went to Vicenza where he became an assistant in the workshops of the leading stonecutters and masons.

Major break

In the year 1537, Andrea Palladio met Gian Giorgio Trissino one of the leading scholars and amateur architect of the time. This was indeed a useful meeting for the 30-year-old Andrea since Trissino not only engaged him to assist him in adding additions to his villa at Cricoli but also became his mentor.

Andrea and Trissino

Getting an assignment from Trissino was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to Andrea Palladio. His mentor introduced him to the principles of classical architecture and renaissance education.Trissino sponsored him to visit Padua and Venice between 1538-9. He even went to Rome in 1541 to study classical roman works and early renaissance architecture.

Trissino also introduced him to a widening circle of patrons who gave him various commissions to design villas and palatial homes.

Trissino also gave him the name Palladio by which he was recognized and which gave him fame to this day.

His palaces and villas

In 1538 Palladio and his apprentices at the workshop began construction of the Villa Godi for rich patrons of Vicenza. Many years later he received commissions from the nobility in Venice to construct their villas.

Andrea Palladio built many palaces and villas mainly in Vicenza. He transformed the city of Vicenza with his imposing structures including civic buildings, the basilica or even aristocratic residences. He received many commissions from the wealthy and nobility of Venice. Due to the immense wealth of his patrons Palladio was given the opportunity to experiment and create his own style. He had a unique and distinct style and this elevated his status among his contemporaries. He used simple and common materials to design the most exquisite buildings in classical style. Many of his country houses that are also termed as villas had a classical temple front with columns generally two stories high. His designs of arch and column compositions have been termed as the “Palladian motif” and have been copied by architects to date. He continuously developed new ideas and systems. His villas seem to have their own unique trademark although they reflect the Palladian style. The villa was both a factory and farm. It became one of the highest expressions of c

His buildings generally have a central hall surrounded by other rooms grouped in perfect symmetry and are three story high. Some of his best-known houses or villas are Villa Rotonda, which overlooks Vicenza, Villa Barbarosa, Villa Foscari, Villa Emo, and Villa Godi.

Villa Godi

This is the first villa attributed to Palladio. It is built on the hills west of Vicenza. Its sheer size and fairytale setting among the hills and enchanting villages surrounding it add to its charm.

Villa Rotonda

This villa near Vicenza is more a palazzo rather than a villa. It is perhaps the most famous building of Palladio. It was built as a party house for Paolo Almerio. Pagan temples have inspired its design. It can be viewed from all sides. It is said that Palladio drew inspiration from his studies of the pantheon, which was known as “La Rotonda” in ancient times. Palladio himself classified this building as a palazzo rather than a villa as it was close to city of Vicenza, and it was not a villa-farm and had no land attached to it. It was built as a pleasure palace for his patron Almeiro to entertain his guests.

Villa Barbaso

This villa was built around the 1560’s for the Barbosa brothers-Marc Antonio and Danielle. It was built over a preexisting building. It was built with a lot of inputs from his patrons. It is in Maser. It has frescoes by Paul Veronese.

Villa Emo

This is the only villa, which is supposed to be built as per the exact specifications of Palladio. It can be considered as a pure

Palladian villa. It encompasses Palladio’s vision of an ideal villa. It is surrounded by elegant gardens. It has frescoes by

Palladio’s favourite fresco artist Zellotti.

Villa Foscari

It is also known as Villa Malcontente due to the legend associated with it. It is located on the banks of the river Brenta. It is also famous for its awe-inspiring portico.

Villa Poiano

This villa is off the beaten track at Pojana, Maggiore. It is one of his most interesting villas. It has three levels and visitors can enjoy the splendid architectural aspects of each level.

Teatro Olimpica

This is one of the purest creations and is a classical example of renaissance architecture in Italy. It is considered by many to be the most famous of Palladio’s works. It is his last work and was completed by his son Silla.

Religious Buildings

In 1560 Palladio was commissioned to build a refectory for the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore. He then constructed the cloister of the monastery of San Maria della Carita, which is now the Accademia museum. He also built the façade of the church of San Francesco della Vigna. He built three magnificent Palladian churches in Venice, which can be admired for their architecture to day. They are the San Giorgio Maggiore, Il Redentore and the San Maria della Presentazione (Le Zitelle). Unfortunately the church of San Lucia was razed in the mid nineteenth century to make way for a railroad station.

Early influences

Palladio was influenced by the work of Vitruvius the classical roman architect and Leon Alberta Battista the renaissance man. He also familiarized himself with the work of his contemporaries like Guilio Romano, Giovanni Maria Falconetto, Sebastian Serlio and Michele Sanmicheli. Although he imbibed the ideas of the classicists and his contemporaries he was also very creative & combined art forms and nature in many of his works.

His writings and his Masterpiece

Andrea Palladio has written very important books on architecture. He first wrote a guide to the classical ruins of Rome. Then in collaboration with his sons he published a new translation of Caesar’s Commentaries. He also contributed illustration to Danielle Barbaro’s annotated edition of Vitruvius’ treatise on classical architecture. Finally in 1570 he published what is perhaps one of the most famous and well read and referred book in architecture. It is called I Quattro Libri dell’ Architettura ( The Four Books of Architecture). This book has been translated in to every European language & to date it can be bought either in its hardback or paperback version. It is the work of a master & details not only architectural principles but also gives advice on practical applications. It has meticulous woodcut illustrations drawn from his original work. He recreated ancient classicism in his own unique style.In 1570 he was alsoappointed as the architectural adviser to the Venetian republic.

The influence of the Palladian Style

Palladio is one of the most copied and revered architects of all time. He influenced British American and European architecture in the past four hundred and fifty years. Inigo Jones was influenced by the Palladian style so much that many of his buildings in England reflect the Palladian style. William Kent, Colin Campbell, Sir Christopher Wren and Sir William Chambers are some of the other famous architects who also used Palladian motifs in their renowned buildings. In the United States the Palladian style is seen in the manor houses of the Southern plantations. This Palladian influence is especially noted in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.


Although Palladio died in 1580 in Vicenza he has left behind a legacy called the Palladian style. He is one of the most influential and most copied architect of the Western world. His influence is still seen in today’s modern homes.