Showing posts with label Andrea Palladio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Andrea Palladio. Show all posts

13 October 2022

Giorgio Massari - architect

Work in 18th century Venice had echoes of Palladio

The Chiesa dei Gesuati is seen by many as Massari's masterpiece
The Chiesa dei Gesuati is seen by
many as Massari's masterpiece 
The architect Giorgio Massari, who designed a number of significant churches and palaces in Venice in the 18th century, was born on this day in 1687.

Massari’s legacy in Venice includes the imposing Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal and the church of Santa Maria del Rosario, commonly known as the Gesuati, on the Giudecca Canal, which is acknowledged as his masterpiece.

He redesigned Santa Maria della Visitazione - known as the Pietà - the church on the Riva degli Schiavoni famous for its association with the great Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi, who wrote some of his most famous music while working as a violin teacher at the adjoining orphanage.

Outside Venice, Massari designed villas and churches around Brescia, Treviso and Udine. 

His designs, especially his churches and villas, were often influenced by the work of the 16th century Classical architect Andrea Palladio and by Massari’s fellow Venetian, the Baroque sculptor and architect Baldassare Longhena.

Massari was born in the San Luca parish of the San Marco sestiere. His father, Stefano, was a carpenter from a village near Brescia in Lombardy. 

Little is known of his early life, although it is thought he may have studied under the supervision of Antonio Gaspari, who may himself have learned from Longhena.

Although it is likely that he had worked on other projects, the first to have been attributed to Massari is a house now known as the Villa Lattes at Istrana in the province of Treviso, which he designed in around 1712 for a wealthy merchant, Paolo Tamagnin.

Massari's Palazzo Grassi, on the Grand Canal, has many features of Classical design
Massari's Palazzo Grassi, on the Grand Canal,
has many features of the Classical design style
His reputation grew through his successes in both civil and religious architecture, which included the Palladian-style Villa Corner at Cavasagra, also in Treviso province, and the Oratory of Santa Maria della Salute in Badia Polesine, near Rovigo, which combined elements of Palladian, Rococo and neoclassical.

He began work on the Gesuiti church after the original architect had died. The project was only in its infancy and the Dominican friars who commissioned the building were so impressed with Massari’s plans that they ditched the drawings left behind by the first architect.

Situated on Fondamenta Zattere in the Dorsoduro sestiere, looking out over the broad Giudecca Canal, the Gesuati pays homage in its design to Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore, the landmark church on the small island at the eastern tip of the Giudecca, with its facade of Corinthian columns topped by a triangular pediment.

With its dome and twin adjoining bell towers, meanwhile, it compliments Palladio’s Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore, which overlooks the Giudecca Canal from the opposite bank.

Also in Dorsoduro, Massari worked extensively on Ca’ Rezzonico, a monumental Baroque palace on the Grand Canal that had been designed by Baldassarre Longhena in 1649 but abandoned after the family who commissioned it fell on hard times. Massari was invited to complete the project more than 100 years later after it was bought by Giambattista Rezzonico, whose family were from the Como area of Lombardy.

It was while he was finishing the Ca’ Rezzonico that Massari was hired to design a new Palazzo Grassi on behalf of the Grassi family, who had acquired the building in 1655. The new palace based on Massari’s designs was constructed between 1748 and 1772. Designed along academic classical lines, it was the last grand palazzo built on the Grand Canal before the fall of the Venetian Republic.

Massari's villas often mimicked the style of Andrea Palladio, who influenced much of his work
Massari's villas, such as the Villa Giovanelli near
Padua, often echoed the style of Andrea Palladio
Massari’s involvement with the church of Santa Maria della Visitazione, known as La Pietà, which is situated only a short distance from Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, apparently began after he won a competition to redesign it, in 1736. It is thought that he spoke to Vivaldi, who was the choirmaster, about the acoustics, although work did not begin until four years after the composer’s death.

The facade, which again has echoes of Palladio in its Corinthian columns and triangular pediment, was not actually finished until the early 20th century, although it is faithful for the most part to Massari’s design.

Other works in Venice attributed to Massari include the church of San Marcuola on the Grand Canal in Cannaregio and the facade of what is now the Academy of Fine Arts in Dorsoduro.

Outside Venice, he designed churches in Brescia and its province, in Scorzè near Treviso, and in Udine. He also contributed to the renovation of the cathedrals in Udine and Padua.

When Paolo Tamagnin died in 1734, Massari married his widow, Pisana Bianconi, and settled with her in a house in the Castello sestiere that had been owned by her late husband.

Widowed in 1751 without children, Massari died in 1766 at the age of 79. His body was buried in the Tamagnin tomb in the church of San Giovanni in Bragora in Castello.

Massari finished the Ca' Rezzonico palace in accordance with Baldassare Longhena's designs
Massari finished the Ca' Rezzonico palace in
accordance with Baldassare Longhena's designs
Travel tip:

Ca’ Rezzonico, which Massari finished according to the designs of Baldassare Longhena, displays paintings by the leading Venetian painters of the 18th century, including Francesco Guardi and Giambattista Tiepolo. The latter was commissioned to paint the ceilings of two salons in 1758, to celebrate the election of Carlo, the younger brother of Giambattista Rezzonico, as Pope Clement XIII, and the marriage of Ludovico Rezzonico to Faustina Savorgnan, uniting the two richest families in Venice. The last of the Rezzonico family to live in the palace died in 1810, since when it has been bought and sold many times. The English poet Robert Browning died in the Ca’ Rezzonico in 1889 at the time it was owned by his son, Robert Barrett Browning. For a period in the 20th century it was the home of Cole Porter, the American composer and songwriter, who rented it for $4,000 a month. Nowadays, it houses the Museum of 18th Century Venice, hosting many precious examples of the furniture and decorations of the period, it has a wealth of Venetian paintings, including works by Tiepolo, Canaletto and Guardi.

The interior of San Luca Evangelista
The interior of San
Luca Evangelista
Travel tip:

The church of San Luca Evangelista in the San Marco sestiere, where Giorgio Massari was baptised, can be found on Rio de San Luca, a side canal off the Grand Canal behind Palazzo Grimani di San Luca. The church itself, which dates back to the 11th century, when it was the family place of worship for the Dandalo and Pizzamano families.  It has a simple facade but a richly decorated interior that features frescoes by Sebastiani Santi and altarpieces by Paolo Veronese and Palma il Giovane. 

Also on this day:

54: The death of Roman emperor Claudius

1815: The execution of Joachim Murat, former King of Naples

1884: The birth of anarchist Mario Buda

1899: The birth of sportsman and entrepreneur Piero Dusio

1985: The death of silent movie star Francesca Bertini


8 July 2019

Gian Giorgio Trissino – dramatist and poet

Innovative playwright spotted the potential of Palladio

Vincenzo Cateno's portrait of the  dramatist Gian Giorgio Trissino
Vincenzo Catena's portrait of the
dramatist Gian Giorgio Trissino
Literary theorist, philologist, dramatist and poet Gian Giorgio Trissino was born on this day in 1478 in Vicenza.

As well as his contribution to Italian culture, Trissino is remembered for educating and helping Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, a young mason he discovered working on his villa in Cricoli, just outside Vicenza.

He took the young man on two visits to Rome that profoundly influenced his development into a great architect and he gave him the name Palladio, after the Greek goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athene.

Trissino had been born into a wealthy family and was able to travel widely, studying Greek in Milan and philosophy in Ferrara. He was part of Niccolò Machiavellis literary circle in Florence before he settled in Rome, where he associated with the humanist and poet, Pietro Bembo. He became a close friend of the dramatist, Giovanni Rucella, and served Popes Leo X and Clement VII.

Trissino’s most important dramatic work was the blank verse tragedy Sofonisba, published in 1524 and first performed in 1562.

Andrea Palladio was Gian
Giorgio Tressino's protégé
The play was based on a story about the Carthaginian wars by the Roman historian Livy. It employed the dramatic techniques of Sophocles and Euripides. It was the first time blank verse had been used extensively in Italian drama and many later European tragedies were modelled on it. The play was translated into French and performed in 1556 at the Château de Blois.

Trissino later wrote a verse comedy based on a work by the Roman playwright Plautus. He wrote the first Italian odes modelled on the verse of the Greek poet, Pindar, and the first Italian versions of the Horatian ode.

Trissino died in Rome in 1550. An edition of his collected works was published in Verona in 1729.

Vicenza's Piazza dei Signori
Vicenza's Piazza dei Signori
Travel tip:

Vicenza, where Gian Giorgio Trissoni was born, has become known as the city of his protégé, Andrea Palladio, and the buildings the great architect designed are all around the city. There is a statue of Palladio close to Piazza dei Signori, the main square. Palazzo del Valmarana and Loggia del Capitaniato are examples of his work that can be seen close to the centre.

Andrea Palladio worked as a stonemason on the Villa Trissoni, which can be found at Cricoli, near Vicenza
Andrea Palladio worked as a stonemason on the Villa
Trissoni, which can be found at Cricoli, near Vicenza
Travel tip:

The Villa Trissoni is located at Cricoli, just outside the centre of Vicenza. Most of it was built in the 16th century and it is associated with Andrea Palladio, who worked on it as a mason. Since 1994 the villa has been part of a World Heritage Site designated to protect the Palladian buildings of Vicenza. Gian Giorgio Trissoni was personally responsible for organising the remodelling of the villa at Cricoli, which he had inherited from his father.

Read more:

Andrea Palladio - the world's famous architect

The poet who was Lucrezia Borgia's lover

Leo X - visionary Renaissance pope

More reading:

1593: The birth of painter Artemisia Gentileschi

1822: The death of the English poet Shelley

1918: American author Ernest Hemingway injured by Austrian mortar fire in the Veneto


21 September 2018

Giacomo Quarenghi - architect

Neoclassicist famous for his work in St Petersburg

Giacomo Quarenghi spent most of his working  life in St Petersburg in Russia
Giacomo Quarenghi spent most of his working
life in St Petersburg in Russia
The architect Giacomo Quarenghi, best known for his work in Russia, and in St Petersburg in particular, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, was born on this day in 1744 in Rota d’Imagna, a village in Lombardy about 25km (16 miles) northwest of Bergamo.

His extensive work in St Petersburg between 1782 and 1816, which followed an invitation from the Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great), included the Hermitage Theatre, one of the first buildings in Russia in the Palladian style, the Bourse and the State Bank, St. George’s Hall in the Winter Palace, several bridges on the Neva river, and a number of academic buildings including the Academy of Sciences, on the University Embankment.

He was also responsible for the reconstruction of some buildings around Red Square in Moscow in neo-Palladian style.

Quarenghi’s simple yet imposing neoclassical buildings, which often featured an elegant central portico with pillars and pediment, are responsible for much of St Petersburg’s stately elegance.

As a young man, Quarenghi was allowed to study painting in Bergamo despite his parents’ hopes that he would follow for a career in law or the church. He travelled widely through Italy, staying in Vicenza, Verona, Mantua and Venice in the north and venturing south to make drawings of the Greek temples at Paestum before arriving in Rome in 1763. His first focus was on painting, but he was later introduced to architecture by Paolo Posi.

Quarenghi's building for the Academy of Sciences on the banks of the Neva river in St Petersburg
Quarenghi's building for the Academy of Sciences on the
banks of the Neva river in St Petersburg
His biggest inspiration came from reading Andrea Palladio's Quattro libri d'archittetura, after which he moved away from painting to concentrate on the design of buildings. He returned to Venice to study Palladio and came to meet a British peer who was passing through Venice on the Grand Tour. It was through him that Quarenghi was commissioned to work in England, where his projects included an altar for the private Roman Catholic chapel of Henry Arundell at New Wardour Castle.

His first major commission in Italy was for the internal reconstruction of the monastery of Santa Scholastica at Subiaco, just outside Rome, in 1771, where he was also asked to design a decor for a Music Room in the Campidoglio, and drew up designs for the tomb of Pope Clement XIII, which were later executed by Antonio Canova.

In 1779 he was selected by the Prussian-born Count Rieffenstein, who had been commissioned by Catherine II to send her two Italian architects.  Quarenghi, then 35, was finding it hard to generate enough work amid fierce competition in Italy, so he accepted the offer without hesitation, leaving immediately for St Petersburg, taking his pregnant wife with him.

Quarenghi's English Palace at Peterhof, which was sadly demolished after suffering damage during the war
Quarenghi's English Palace at Peterhof, which was sadly
demolished after suffering damage during the war
Quarenghi's first important commission in Russia was the magnificent English Palace in Peterhof, just outside St Petersburg, which was sadly blown up by the Germans during the Second World War II and later demolished by the Soviet government.

In 1783 Quarenghi settled with his family in Tsarskoe Selo, the town which was the former seat of the Russian royal family, where he would supervise the construction of the Alexander Palace.

Soon afterwards, he was appointed Catherine II's court architect and went on to produce a large number of designs for the Empress, her successors and members of her court, as well as interior decorations and elaborate ornate gardens.

His work outside St Petersburg included a cathedral in Ukraine and among his buildings in Moscow were a theatre hall in the Ostankino Palace.

Quarenghi was less popular with Catherine II’s son and successor, the Emperor Paul, but enjoyed a resurgence under Alexander I. He returned to Italy from time to time and always to an enthusiastic welcome.

He retired in 1808 and remained in Russia, even though most of his 13 children by two wives chose to return to Italy.

Quarenghi was granted Russian nobility and the Order of St. Vladimir of the First Degree in 1814. He died in Saint Petersburg at the age of 72.

A view over the village of Rota d'Imagna in Lombardy
A view over the village of Rota d'Imagna in Lombardy
Travel tip:

Rota d’Imagna in the province of Bergamo is situated in the Imagna Valley, a popular tourist spot because of its largely unspoilt landscape and spectacular mountain views, with many visitors attracted to trekking, mountain walks and horse riding. In the village itself, the Church of Rota Fuori, dedicated to San Siro, which was built in 1496 and restructured in 1765, has art works of significance including by Gaetano Peverada, Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli and Carlo Ceresa.  Quarenghi’s home was Ca’ Piatone, a palace built in the 17th century.

The Hermitage Theatre has echoes of Palladio's Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza
The Hermitage Theatre has echoes of
Palladio's Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza
Travel tip:

Quarenghi’s design for the Hermitage Theatre in St Petersburg, with its seating set out in the style of a Roman amphitheatre and the walls decorated with marble columns and recessed statues, was heavily influenced by his visit to the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza as he toured Italy as a young man. The theatre, constructed between 1580 and 1585, was the final design by Andrea Palladio and was not completed until after his death. The trompe-l'œil onstage scenery, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, gives the appearance of long streets receding to a distant horizon. The theatre is one of only three Renaissance theatres still in existence.

More reading:

How Palladio became the world's favourite architect

Vincenzo Scamozzi - the man behind the unique stage set at the Teatro Olimpico

Luigi Vanvitelli and a royal palace based on the Palace of Versailles 

Also on this day:

1559: The birth of the painter and architect known as Cigoli

1960: The birth of conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan


7 August 2018

Vincenzo Scamozzi – architect

Follower of Palladio had his own distinctive style

A portrait of  Vincenzo Scamozzi attributed to Paolo Veronese
A portrait of  Vincenzo Scamozzi
attributed to Paolo Veronese
The architect and writer Vincenzo Scamozzi, whose work in the second half of the 16th century had a profound effect on the landscape of Vicenza and Venice, died on this day in 1616 in Venice.

Scamozzi’s influence was later to spread far beyond Italy as a result of his two-volume work, L’idea dell’Architettura Universale - The idea of a universal architecture - which was one of the last Renaissance works about the theory of architecture.

Trained by his father, Scamozzi went on to study in Venice and Rome and also travelled in Europe.

The classical influence of Andrea Palladio is evident in many of the palaces, villas and churches that Scamozzi designed in Vicenza, Venice and Padua.

His work influenced English neoclassical architects such as Inigo Jones and many others who came after him.

Scamozzi's Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni on the Grand Canal in Venice
Scamozzi's Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni
on the Grand Canal in Venice
Scamozzi was also an important theatre architect and stage set designer. He completed Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza in 1585, adding his own design for a stage set constructed of timber and plaster, using trompe-l'œil techniques to create the appearance of long streets receding to a distant horizon

Scamozzi was invited to Venice to design housing for the procuratorate of San Marco. He continued the end façade of the Sansovino Library, with its arcaded ground floor, adding an upper floor to provide the required accommodation in the Piazzetta.

Between 1569 and 1614, Scamozzi designed villas, palaces and churches throughout the Venetian Republic, often completing and reworking designs by Palladio, such as the one for Villa Capra “La Rotonda” near Vicenza.

In 1601 he continued the work of the architect Andrea Moroni after his death, by designing a new façade for Palazzo del Bò, the main building of Padua University

Scamozzi designed Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni on the Grand Canal in Venice and his final project in 1614 was Palazzo Loredan Vendramin Calergi in Venice.

His seven children had died before him, so Scamozzi left the proceeds of his estate to set up a scholarship to enable poor boys from Vicenza to study architecture.

Scamozzi's stage set at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza
Scamozzi's stage set at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza
Travel tip:

The Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza was the last piece of architecture designed by Andrea Palladio and it was not completed until after his death. It is one of three Renaissance theatres remaining in existence and since 1994 it has been listed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. In 1579 Palladio was asked to produce a design for a permanent theatre in Vicenza and he decided to base it on designs of Roman theatres he had studied. After his death, only six months into the project, Vincenzo Scamozzi was called in to complete it. Scamozzi’s original scenery for the theatre, which was meant to represent the streets of Thebes, has miraculously survived to this day. The theatre is still used for plays and musical performance, but audiences are limited to 400 for conservation reasons. The theatre was also used as a location for the films Don Giovanni and Casanova.

The inner courtyard at Palazzo del Bò, where Scamozzi designed a new facade
The inner courtyard at Palazzo del Bò, where Scamozzi
designed a new facade
Travel tip:

The main building of Padua University is Palazzo del Bò in Via 8 Febbraio in the centre of Padua. Vincenzo Scamozzi designed a new façade for the palace after the death of the original architect commissioned, Andrea Moroni. The building used to house the medical faculty of the university and visitors can take a guided tour of the palace and see the actual lectern used by Galileo when he taught there between 1592 and 1610.

More reading:

How Andrea Palladio became the world's favourite architect

Jacopo Sansovino - the architect of Piazza San Marco

How Canaletto captured the look of Venice

Also on this day:

1919: The birth of film producer Dino De Laurentiis

1956: The birth of Italy's 'Millionaire' Presenter Gerry Scotti


23 September 2017

Paolo Rossi - World Cup hero

Goalscorer who bounced back from two-year ban

(This article was written in 2017; sadly, Paolo Rossi passed away in 2020 at the age of 64)

Paolo Rossi celebrates his goal in the 1982 World Cup final in Spain
Paolo Rossi celebrates his goal in the 1982
World Cup final in Spain
The footballer Paolo Rossi, whose goals steered Italy to World Cup glory in 1982, was born on this day in 1956 in Prato in Tuscany.

At the peak of his career in club football, in which his best years were with Juventus and Vicenza, Rossi scored almost 100 Serie A and Serie B goals in seven seasons.

Yet for many his exploits with the Italian national team define his career. In 48 appearances he scored 20 goals, including six in the 1982 finals in Spain, when he won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer and the Golden Ball as the best player.

In 1982 he also won the Ballon D’Or, the prestigious award given to the player of the season across all the European leagues, following in the footsteps of Omar Sivori and Gianni Rivera to become the third Italian player to win the vote, in which company he has since been joined by Roberto Baggio and Fabio Cannavaro.

His success story is all the more remarkable for the fact that he scaled so many personal peaks after being banned from football for two years in a match-fixing scandal, although he denied the accusations levelled at him.

The 1982 World Cup saved his career and his reputation, although the fairytale would never have happened but for the faith shown in him by the national coach, Enzo Bearzot.

Italy's coach, Enzo Bearzot, stood by Rossi
Italy's coach, Enzo Bearzot, stood by Rossi
Bearzot’s selection of Rossi for the squad he took to Spain came barely a month after his suspension was lifted and sparked an outcry in Italy. Apart from those who thought he was unworthy of wearing the Azzurri shirt, others argued he would be too lacking in fitness to make an effective contribution.

Yet Bearzot not only believed in Rossi’s innocence, he also recalled the three goals the striker had scored in the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina and was convinced he could make an impact again.

His faith was borne out totally.  Rossi looked off the pace at the start of the tournament but found his feet memorably in the second phase, scoring all three of Italy’s goals in a 3-2 win against a superior Brazil team that still ranks as one of the greatest matches in World Cup history.

He went on to score both Italy’s goals as they defeated Poland in the semi-finals and opened the scoring in Italy’s 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final.

As a boy, Rossi played his first football with an amateur team in the Santa Lucia area of Prato. At the age of 12, he was spotted by a scout from Juventus, who had also been interested in his brother, Rossano, but had sent him home after a year.

His mother, who had always been worried about Rossano having to fend for himself in Turin, was reluctant to suffer a similarly anxious time with Paolo, especially since Rossano’s dreams ultimately came to nothing.

Paolo Rossi in action for Juventus
Paolo Rossi in action for Juventus
But Juventus were persuasive, offering substantial inducements for him to sign, and ultimately in 1972 a deal was agreed.

It took a long time for his career to take off, however. He suffered a series of serious knee injuries and apart from a handful of Coppa Italia games he did not make any real progress towards a regular place in the first team at Juventus.

A spell on loan with Como did not change his fortunes and he might have been told to seek an alternative career had Lanerossi Vicenza, the Serie B club, not stepped in with another loan deal.

Rossi had, until then, been seen as a winger, slight in build but with the speed to beat defenders. Vicenza’s coach, Giovan Battista Fabbri, had other ideas, reckoning that Rossi’s pace could be deployed in the middle, despite his lack of physical stature. 

It proved a masterstroke.  Rossi scored 21 goals to help Vicenza win promotion to Serie A and followed it with 24 in the top flight as Vicenza finished second, a remarkable performance.  Rossi became the first player to be top scorer in Serie B and Serie A in consecutive seasons.

In the event, Vicenza’s flame went out as quickly as it had ignited. They paid 2.612 million lire to make Rossi their own player, making him the world’s most expensive footballer, which he rewarded with another 15 goals, despite missing many games through injury. Yet Vicenza were relegated.

Rossi (right) with Giovan Battista Fabbri, the coach of Vicenza, who turned him into a striker
Rossi (right) with Giovan Battista Fabbri, the
coach of Vicenza, who turned him into a striker
Had they stayed up, Rossi might never have been embroiled in the match-fixing allegations.  Instead, in order to continue playing in Serie A and continue his international career, he went on loan to Perugia, who were heavily implicated in what became known as the Totonero scandal after a match against Avellino, in which Rossi scored twice, was found to have been rigged to end in a draw.

Rossi admitted he had been approached by a third party interested in fixing the result but said he had agreed to nothing.  Nonetheless, he was found guilty and banned for three years, reduced on appeal to two.

Disillusioned, he threatened to leave Italy for a new life elsewhere but Juventus bought him back from Vicenza and the bianconeri finally saw the real Rossi.  He helped them win the Serie A title – the ‘Scudetto’ - the UEFA Cup and the European Cup during a period when his very presence in a team seemed to guarantee their winning a trophy.

Since retiring, Rossi has run a real estate company, opened an agritourism complex in Bucine, near Arezzo, taken part in Ballando con le Stelle – the Italian version of Strictly Come Dancing – and worked for several newspapers and television stations as a columnist and pundit.

He has also run for election to the European Parliament and worked on behalf of a number of charities.  Married to journalist Federica Cappelletti, he has three children.

The Castello dell'Imperatore in Prato
The Castello dell'Imperatore in Prato
Travel tip:

Paolo Rossi’s home city of Prato is the second largest in Tuscany after Florence and has a considerable number of historic churches and palaces and two castles, yet is rarely part of anyone’s tourist itinerary.  Attractions include beautiful frescoes by Filippo Lippi inside the Duomo and the external pulpit by Michelozzo and Donatello, the beautiful Palazzo Pretorio and Piazza del Comune where it sits.  The remains of Castello dell’Imperatore are also worth exploring.  Prato’s traditional textile industry, which today employs many of the city’s large Chinese population, once saw it described as ‘the Manchester of Italy.’

Palladio's Villa Capra, known as La Rotonda
Palladio's Villa Capra, known as La Rotonda
Travel tip:

Known as both the city of Palladio and, on account of its historical trade in precious metals, the ‘city of gold’, Vicenza is one of the gems of the Veneto, with a centre rich in beautiful architecture, much of which has been built or influenced by the 16th century architect Andrea Palladio, who also left his mark on the area by building many impressive villas in the countryside around Vicenza, the most famous of which, the symmetrically four-sided Villa Almerico Capra, commonly known as La Rotonda. There are some 23 buildings in the city itself that were designed by Palladio, including perhaps the city’s most popular attraction, the Teatro Olimpico, which was his last work.


27 November 2016

Jacopo Sansovino – architect

Death of the designer praised by Palladio

A portrait of Sansovino by Tintoretto, currently  housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
A portrait of Sansovino by Tintoretto, currently
 housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Jacopo d’Antonio Sansovino, the sculptor and architect renowned for his works around Piazza San Marco, died on this day in 1570 in Venice.

He designed the Libreria Sansoviniana in the Piazzetta, which was later praised by the architect Andrea Palladio as ‘the finest building erected since antiquity’.

Sansovino had been born Jacopo Tatti in 1486 in Florence and was apprenticed to the sculptor Andrea Sansovino, whose surname he subsequently adopted.

He was commissioned to make a marble sculpture of St James for the Duomo and a Bacchus, which is now in the Bargello in Florence.

However, his designs for sculptures to adorn the façade of the Church of San Lorenzo were rejected by Michelangelo, who was in charge of the scheme.

In 1529 Sansovino became chief architect to the Procurators of San Marco, making him one of the most influential artists in Venice.

The Palazzo Corner della Ca'Grande was the first building in Venice designed by Sansovino
The Palazzo Corner della Ca'Grande was the first
building in Venice designed by Sansovino
His first Venetian building was the Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande, a huge classical palace for one of the richest families in Venice.

Sansovino designed the Loggetta and its sculptures adjoining the Campanile and statues for the Basilica of San Marco. He also helped rebuild many of the churches and palaces in Venice.

His masterpiece is considered to be the library building in the Piazzetta, which houses the national library of San Marco, the Biblioteca Marciana.

Construction began in 1537 opposite the Doge’s palace and it became one of the most richly decorated Renaissance structures in Venice, surmounted by statues of mythological gods.

During the construction, the roof vaulting collapsed and at the time Sansovino was blamed and imprisoned. He was freed only after appeals from eminent people in Venice, including the artist Titian.

After Sansovino’s death in Venice in 1570 he was buried in St Mark’s Basilica.

The Libreria Sansoviniana, which houses the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, is considered Sansovino's masterpiece
The Libreria Sansoviniana, which houses the Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana, is considered Sansovino's masterpiece
Travel tip:

The National Library of St Mark’s, the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, is housed in the Renaissance building designed by Sansovino opposite the Doge’s Palace in the Piazzetta. It is one of the earliest surviving public manuscript depositories in the country holding one of the greatest collections of classical texts in the world. The library is named after Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice. One of the first librarians was poet and scholar Pietro Bembo, who had earlier written beautiful love letters to Lucrezia Borgia while they were having an affair.

Travel tip:

Sansovino was buried in the beautifully decorated Baptistery of Saint Mark’s near the altar. The Baptistery was built on to the southern end of the church in the first half of the 14th century. In the centre of the room stands a baptismal font in marble and bronze, which was designed by Sansovino.

More reading:

The worldwide influence of the Renaissance giant Titian

Andrea Palladio - the world's favourite architect

The day the Campanile of St Mark's collapsed

Also on this day:

1964: The birth of footballer and manager Roberto Mancini

(Picture credits: Palazzo Corner della Ca'Grande and Libreria Sansoviniana both by Wolfgang Moroder via Wikimedia Commons)


19 August 2016

Andrea Palladio - world's favourite architect

Humble stonecutter became his profession's biggest name

Andrea Palladio, whose designs have been  copied the world over
Andrea Palladio, whose designs have been
copied the world over
Andrea Palladio, the humble stonecutter who became the most influential architect in the history of his profession, died on this day in 1580, aged 71.

The cause of his death is not clear but some accounts say he collapsed while inspecting the construction of the Tempietto Barbaro, a church in Maser, a town in the Veneto not far from Treviso.

He was initially buried in a family vault in the church of Santa Corona in Vicenza, the city in which he spent most of his life, but later re-interred at the civic cemetery, where a chapel was built in his honour.

Examples of Palladio's work can be found all over the region where he lived and in Venice, where he was commissioned to build, among other architectural masterpieces, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, the focal point of the view across the lagoon from St Mark's Square through the Piazzetta.

He built a substantial number of villas for wealthy clients across the Veneto region, some of them lining the Brenta Canal that links the lagoon of Venice with Padua. Others such as the Villa Capra, otherwise known as La Rotonda, famous for its symmetrically square design with four six-columned porticoes, can be found in open countryside near Vicenza.

Vicenza itself features many of Palladio's designs, including the fabulous Teatro Olimpico, in which perspective was used to create the optical illusion of city streets receding from the stage.  He was working on the theatre at the time of his death, after which the project was finished by his son, Silla, one of five children, and Palladio's assistant, Vincenzo Scamozzi.

The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, one of Venice's most familiar views, was among Palladio's triumphs
The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, one of Venice's most
familiar views, was among Palladio's triumphs
Palladio was born Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola, the son of a miller, in Padua in November 1508. He found work as a stonecutter the workshop of a sculptor before moving to Vicenza when he was 16, joining a guild of stonemasons and bricklayers.

It was while working for the poet and scholar Gian Giorgio Trissino, that his career began to gather pace.  Trissino not only gave him the name Palladio, after the Greek goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athene, but encouraged and helped him to study classical architecture in Rome. He was fascinated with the work of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, architect and engineer of the 1st century BC. It was while in Rome that he came across the Pantheon, with its huge hemispheric dome inspired by Vitruvius, which was to influence many of his designs.

Trissino also introduced Palladio to a number of wealthy and influential families, including the Barbaro brothers, through whom he ultimately became chief architect of the Republic of Venice, having already occupied the equivalent position in Vicenza.

Palladio received his first commissions in the 1530s and thereafter was in constant demand, his style inspiring other architects outside Italy, at first in Europe and later around the world.  One factor in the spread of his fame was his publication in 1570 of his treatise, I Quattro Libri dell'Archittetura (The Four Books of Architecture), which set out rules others could follow.

The style of his designs became so popular that in Britain, for example, there was an explosion of town halls, assembly rooms, country houses, churches, inns and farmhouses that owed the essence of their design to Palladio's interpretation of classical Roman architecture.

The pattern was replicated elsewhere.  The White House, the residence occupied by the most powerful man in the world, the President of the United States, has many echoes of Palladio.

The unmistakably Palladian Church of the Redeemer - Il Redentore - commands the Giudecca Canal
The unmistakably Palladian Church of the Redeemer -
Il Redentore - commands the Giudecca Canal
Travel tip:

The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, situated on the island of the same name across the lagoon and directly opposite the Doge's Palace and the Riva degli Schiavoni, is one of Venice's most recognisable sights.  Along the Giudecca island, opposite the Fondamenta Zattere that flanks the Giudecca Canal on the Dorsoduoro side, is the Church of the Redeemer, better known as Il Redentore, of which the facade is another Palladian masterpiece.

Travel tip:

The city of Vicenza is almost a living museum of Palladio's works, featuring 23 buildings designed by the architect that have been included on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.  In addition to the Villa Capra, which lies outside the centre, and the Teatro Olimpico, there is the Basilicata Palladiana on Vicenza's central Piazza dei Signori, the Palazzo Thiene and the Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, which houses the Museo Palladio.  There is a statue of Palladio in the Piazza dei Signori.

More reading:

Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola - contemporary of Palladio who helped spread Renaissance style

(Photo of Il Redentore by Satdeep Gill CC BY-SA 4.0)