Jones' Italianised taste a la Palladio affected local architecture both directly and indirectly. He had a direct impact through the buildings he designed as Surveyor of the King's Works - the Banqueting House in Whitehall; Queen's House at Greenwich and St Paul's Covent Garden. Classical Palladian patterns were introduced into homes via fully integrated architecture, furniture and decoration. And he had an indirect impact, as a result of having travelled to Italy with the young Thomas Howard Earl of Arundel (died 1646). This was the man who went on to become one of the greatest patrons and art collectors of his era.
Villa Capra/Rotunda, Vicenza
designed by Palladio
These were honourable men for whom politics was more than a bunfight between vested interests. They believed that politics included ethics, art and aesthetics. And their politics laid emphasis on social duty, moderation, tolerance, stoical good sense, politeness, decency and the civilised virtues; a distrust of enthusiasms and of vigorous dissent. We can safely say they created a British Georgian style, using the Italian design of Andrea Palladio.
Once adapted to British taste, the Italianised villa was built on hills, giving emphasis to the long gallery and focusing on maximising the views. In Kent, Mereworth Castle was closely modelled by Colen Campbell on the most famous Palladian site, Villa Rotunda in Vicenza. In Derbyshire, Chatsworth House was an Elizabethan home rebuilt by the first Duke of Devonshire early in the C18th. The southern and eastern fronts of his new classical palazzo style building were designed by William Talman, while the west and north fronts were done by Thomas Archer. Talman was directly influenced by Indigo Jones and his books on Palladio.
Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl Burlington, had lands in Ireland, Yorkshire and fashionable NW London. In 1714-15 Burlington travelled through Belgium, Holland, Germany then Italy as a gentleman architect. For him, taste came directly from his Grand Tour and Palladianism. On his way home, Boyle stayed in Pisa Padua and Venice where he saw the Vicenza villas of Andrea Palladio.
Chiswick House, London
designed by by Lord Burlington and William Kent
But beauty was equally the determinant of form, though beauty of a special kind. Palladio was designing buildings for a clientele who, whether princes of commerce, traditional soldier-aristocrats or gentlemen of leisure, shared an intense admiration for ancient Rome. They were children of the High Renaissance and steeped in humanist learning. Palladio was the first architect regularly to apply the colonnaded temple fronts to secular buildings.
The beauty of his villas was not solely a matter of applied ornament. As can be seen particularly in his low-budget, pared-down villas and auxiliary buildings, there was a geometric order which arose from sophisticated systems of proportion and an unerring intuitive sense of design. It is little wonder that Andrea Palladio became arguably the most influential architect the western world has ever known.
Martin Randall Travel’s three tours of Vicenza in 2013 will cover most of the finest surviving Palladian villas and palaces, as well as some of the lesser-known and less accessible ones. Each tour takes six days.