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Palladio and His Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey
At The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City April 2 - August 1, 2010

Andrea Palladio (1508–1580) is considered among the most significant and influential architects in the Western world. His clean, elegant interpretation of the architecture of classical antiquity was to spread throughout Europe and North America, and his finished buildings, drawings, and writings have become cultural touchstones. Now, for the first time in New York, a collection of thirty-one rarely seen drawings by Palladio from the outstanding collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects Trust is on view in a special exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum entitled Palladio and His Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey, from April 2 through August 1, 2010.
Andrea Palladio
The drawings, together with Palladio’s architectural texts and pattern books, highlight the growth of his design sensibility. They range from early studies and sketches to perfectly executed later drawings of villas and other commissioned works. Also on view are a number of detailed architectural models, demonstrating the spread of Palladio’s architectural theories to America, most notably in the work of Thomas Jefferson and in designs for monumental buildings in Washington, DC.
“The Morgan is delighted to partner with the Royal Institute of British Architects Trust to present this magnificent selection of work to New Yorkers for the first time,” said William M. Griswold, director of The Morgan Library & Museum. “Palladio’s drawings function both as groundbreaking architectural designs and as extraordinary individual works of art. When combined with his seminal texts and the beautifully rendered models of his and other buildings, the exhibition immerses the viewer into the achievements of an unsurpassed architectural genius.”


Palladio was born in Padua, then part of the Republic of Venice, and early on worked as a stonecutter in sculpture studios in the Veneto. He would later be drawn to architecture and studied Roman ruins as well as the work of the classical author Vitruvius. In 1570, Palladio published his seminal I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura (Four Books on Architecture), which fully lay out his architectural theory and demonstrate his core beliefs in the beauty and harmony of classical architecture. Primarily known for his villas and palaces for the aristocracy, Palladio also designed buildings for wealthy merchants and untitled landowners. These structures include churches, apartment blocks in Venice, and even barns. Throughout, he was able to incorporate classical design elements while exploiting Renaissanceera
advances in engineering and construction technique.


The exhibition begins with five drawings from Palladio’s early career and his intensive study of the architecture of antiquity. His sketch of the warehouses of Trajan at Ostia shares many design elements found in his later Basilica in Vincenza. A drawing of the antique bases of columns in the Lateran Basilica shows that they were intended to add height to preexisting columns that were too low. He adopted this approach in the interior of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. Assisi’s Temple of Minerva is a rare example of a classical building with columns on high pedastals. Palladio’s study of this temple anticipates his design of the giant pillars on pedestals at the Palazzo Valmarana. This section of the exhibition also includes a model of the Pantheon in Rome, which Palladio measured and found a particular source of inspiration in terms of proportions and detail.

The only extant Roman text on architecture in Palladio’s day was De Architectura by Vitruvius, for which the original illustrations had not survived. Several drawings in this portion of the exhibition demonstrate how Palladio “interpreted” the text, including a plan and elevation for his Vitruvian Peripteros Temple. The exhibition also presents drawings that demonstrate Palladio’s creative process. On view are rough sketches, with unfinished areas and traces of earlier ideas, for the Villa Mocenigo and the reconstruction of the Mausoleum of Augustus. Juxtaposed with these are perfectly executed drawings made for some of Palladio’s patrons, including an elevation drawing of a villa that demonstates the effect of sunlight on the building.

Several of the architectural drawings are complemented by modern basreliefs that express in three dimensions what the drawings represent. Since its publication in 1570, Palladio’s landmark text, I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura, has exerted enormous influence on architects. The book’s graphic design and sequencing of text and illustrations became a model for subsequent architectural publications. The autograph sheets in the exhibition shed light on Palladio’s creative process in designing the text, beginning with studies of how to integrate a building’s plan and elevation, followed by preliminary studies for the woodcut illustrations.


Palladio’s influence on the architecture of the United States is examined in the final section of the show, which consists of a series of specially commissioned models of key American buildings. DU.S. Supreme Courturing the eighteenth century, Palladio’s impact was almost entirely on domestic architecture, as house design increasingly incorporated classically proportioned porticoes. Thomas Jefferson’s design for his famous home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia, is one of the best examples of this. Jefferson also incorporated Palladian principles into his design for the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond as well as in an unsuccessful competition submission for The White House. Palladio’s restoration drawings of ancient Roman monuments, presented in the fourth book of I Quattro Libri, became the primary source of inspiration for some of America’s most ambitious public buildings of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century American Renaissance. These include the Supreme Court and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the New York Stock Exchange.


The exhibition is organized by the Royal Institute of British Architects Trust, London, in association with the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, Vicenza, and The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Plaster models are by Timothy Richards. The exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the Regione del Veneto, Dainese, Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust, British Architectural Library Trust, Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Center for Palladian Studies in America, Richard Wernham and Julia West, Andrew D Stone, William T. Kemper Foundation, Anne Kriken and Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation. Related public programs at the Morgan are made possible in part by the Italian Cultural Institute, New York.

The Morgan exhibition program is supported in part by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Irena Murray, the Sir Banister Fletcher Director of the British Architectural Library at the Royal Institute of British Architects; Charles Hind, H. J. Heinz Curator of Drawings and Archives at the BAL and an internationally acknowledged Palladian scholar; and Calder Loth, Senior Architectural Historian at the Virginia Department of Historical Resources. Additional scientific and historical advice is provided by Dr. Guido Beltramini, Director of the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio in Vicenza. Based in Bath, England, Timothy Richards has over many years become internationally known for his detailed plaster models of buildings from around the world. His work is held in many private collections and offers a unique way to help explain and interpret historically important architecture.

Pictures starting at top: Sebastiano Ricci (1659–1734) Conjectural portrait of Andrea Palladio, 1715 RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections; Plaster model of United States Supreme Court Model by Timothy Richards, Bath, England


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