Celebrating Palladio

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Celebrating Palladio at Plus One Gallery, London 2008

Transcript of Celebrating Palladio


Julian Bicknell Pier Carlo Bontempi Julian Bicknell Jane Corsellis A l e x a n d e r C re s w e l l Paul Day James Hart Dyke Caterina Emo A n d re w I n g a m e l l s Ben Johnson Peter Kelly Carl Laubin Christian Marsh Liam OConnor L e o n a rd P o r t e r Francisco Rangel T i m o t h y R i c h a rd s John Simpson G e o r g e S a u m a re z S m i t h George Szirtes F r a n c i s Te r r y Q u i n l a n Te r r y C l a r i s s a U p c h u rc h D a v i d Wa t k i n Steve Whitehead Antonia Williams


C E L E B R AT I N G PA L L A D I OCatalogue published for the exhibition at Plus One Gallery, November 2008Julian Bicknell Pier Carlo Bontempi Julian Bicknell Jane Corsellis A l e x a n d e r C re s w e l l Paul Day James Hart Dyke Caterina Emo A n d re w I n g a m e l l s Ben Johnson Peter Kelly Carl Laubin Christian Marsh Liam OConnor L e o n a rd P o r t e r Francisco Rangel T i m o t h y R i c h a rd s John Simpson G e o r g e S a u m a re z S m i t h George Szirtes F r a n c i s Te r r y Q u i n l a n Te r r y C l a r i s s a U p c h u rc h D a v i d Wa t k i n Steve Whitehead Antonia Williams

Plus One Gallery89-91 Pimlico Road, London, SW1W 8PH Tel: 020 7730 7656 Fax: 020 7730 7664 info@plusonegallery.com www.plusonegallery.com


IN ARCHITECTURE PALLADIO IS THE GAME!! (Edwin Lutyens, 1903)David Watkin1. I Quattro Libri dellArchitettura (1570) This exhibition celebrates the 500th anniversary of the birth of Andrea Palladio (1508-80) who has been described as the most imitated architect in history. For example, some of the paintings of his work exhibited here belong to the tradition of capriccio paintings of Palladian and neoPalladian buildings by Canaletto and Visentini in eighteenth-century Venice. Palladio has been imitated not only because of the quantity and beauty of his buildings but because he published I Quattro Libri dellArchitettura (1570) partly to facilitate imitation of his designs. By the sixteenth century, printed books had become a hugely influential method of spreading new ideas. Palladio chose to show his designs in orthogonal form as plans, sections, and elevations, partly because it is easier to take precise dimensions from these than from the kind of perspective views which had been included in one of his models, Serlios Architettura (1537-75). Palladio did, however, add shading to indicate the important projections and recessions which can be lost in orthogonal elevations. His plates improve and enlarge his buildings, the status of which he further raised by putting illustrations of them alongside the famous monuments of antiquity, suggesting that they are worthy of parallel esteem. Of his four books on architecture, a publication which was twenty years in preparation, the first two are on domestic buildings and the second two on public and monumental buildings. A further two books on triumphal arches, baths, amphitheatres, aqueducts, fortifications, and ports, were intended but never completed. His Quattro Libri is neither a rewriting of Vitruviuss De Architectura, the only architectural treatise to survive from antiquity, nor a work of theory like Albertis De re aedificatoria (1486). Albertis book was in Latin and unillustrated, whereas Palladios was in the vernacular, with lavish illustrations which were more harmoniously related to the text than in any previous publication. It was also a no nonsense work with virtually nothing on topics such as the anthropomorphic origins of columns or harmonic proportions, for Palladio relied largely on his own eye, like an architect such as Lutyens. The motto, Regina Virtus Virtue the Queen, accompanying a depiction of her as mother of the arts on the title-page of each volume of the Quattro Libri, recalled that virtue in antiquity referred to the worthy actions undertaken by the individual for the benefit and enhancement of civic life. It was thus appropriate that after establishing his reputation in Vicenza, Palladio became preoccupied with the renewal of the image of another city, Venice, unique among major Italian cities in not having an ancient Roman past. While we think of his work in Vicenza as primarily secular, notably private palazzi and public buildings, it was to be largely religious in Venice where he fused pagan and Christian elements in churches with domes and antique temple-front faades of marble. 2. Palladio in Venice Palladio hailed Sansovinos St Marks Library, Venice (1537), as the richest and most ornate building made since the ancients. Though seeing Sansovino as the heir to the architecture of ancient Rome, Palladio was aware that this had not yet been fully revived in the Venice of his day. It was significantly in 1570, the year of Sansovinos death, that Palladio moved from Vicenza to Venice where he aimed to reinvent the grandeur of the classical past. Though he is generally known today in Venice for three churches, these represented only a fraction of what he and his supporters hoped to achieve. He was, however, responsible for convents, engineering advice, designs for triumphal processions, and rebuilding the Doges Palace. Palladios S. Francesco della Vigna (c.1562), Venice, where he displaced Sansovino, might be called a commemorative faade with its epigraphs in four large panels and its emphatic inscription in the frieze. This was an ancient Roman practice, as can be seen in the frieze of the partially


surviving Temple of Saturn in the Forum, illustrated by Palladio in Quattro Libri where he misidentified it as the Temple of Concord. The practice was recommended and practised by Alberti but was a novelty in Venetian church faades, though Palladios Villa Barbaro at Maser for the Barbaro brothers featured a prominent inscription in its frieze. We know that Palladio was especially proud of his convent for the Lateran Canons of Sta Maria della Carit, Venice (1560), of which a range survives in the nineteenthcentury Accademia museum, because it is the only built Venetian project which he illustrated in the Quattro Libri. It is an attempt to recreate the ancient Roman house as described by Vitruvius whom Palladio echoed in the Quattro Libri when he stressed that grand houses in a republic needed loggias and spacious ornate halls where clients could wait and walk about. At the Carit convent he thus created an atrium/tablinium/cloister complex which Giorgio Vasari perceptively hailed as Palladios marvellous and most notable building in his celebrated Lives of the Artists (1550, enlarged ed., 1568). 3. Two guide books to Rome by Palladio Everyone interested in the history of architecture is familiar with Palladios Quattro Libri, but a rather smaller number will have read his two popular guidebooks of 1554 to the antiquities, churches, and saints of Rome: The Antiquities of Rome Succinctly Compiled from Authors both Ancient and Modern, and Description of the Churches, Stations of the Cross, Indulgences, and Relics of the Bodies of Saints, in the City of Rome. If little read recently, his Antiquities of Rome was a popular gazetteer which had run to over thirty editions by the 1750s. Giacomo Leoni appended an English translation of it, with some omissions, to the third edition in 1742 of his translation of Palladios Quattro Libri. Palladio was not only concerned with the famous ancient monuments in his Antiquities of Rome, but with priesthood and ancient rituals of birth, marriage, and death, military victories and losses. In his Description of the Churches, he similarly did not praise contemporary church architecture or architects, for

his focus is on myths and legends, martyrdom, magic, and fabulous events, liturgical art, relics, and icons. Astonishingly, he can thus describe Bramantes early Renaissance masterpieces in Rome, his celebrated Tempietto of 1502 at S. Pietro in Montorio, and the Belvedere Court at the Vatican, of 1505, without mentioning Bramantes name. However, in the different context of the Quattro Libri, Palladio made clear how much he venerated the iconic nature of the Tempietto by paying it the remarkable tribute of including it among antique buildings in Book IV not among the modern buildings in Book II. In this he followed the example of Serlio who had also admired this circular, colonnaded chapel, modelled on ancient Roman temples. Palladio, indeed, hailed Bramante as the first to make known that good and beautiful architecture which had been hidden from the time of the ancients till now. Palladios two small guide books of 1554 on the ancient monuments and on the churches of Rome formed part of a single Christian vision, emphasising the compatibility of the ancient pagan city with the modern Christian one. At the same time, the credulous and obsessive account of indulgences and miracle-working relics which forms the greater part of the Description of the Churches, is in fascinating contrast to the image of Palladio as the rational master of mathematical proportion which was built up by Rudolf Wittkower in his seminal book, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (1949, rev. ed. 1962). The pious practices which Palladio recorded, including a sixteen-page catalogue of the indulgences which would enable the faithful to gain periods of remittance from purgatory ranging from 3,000 to 28,000 years, was published nearly half a century after Luther had nailed his Theses condemning Indulgences to the door of the castle church of All Saints at Wittenberg. 4. Palladios influence from Inigo Jones to Canaletto Palladio has had a continuous influence on the entire history of western architecture from his death to the present day. England was the first nation outside Italy to embrace the Vitruvian Palladian architecture illustrated in the Quattro Libri. The key figure in this movement was Inigo


Jones (1573-1653) who