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Andrea Palladio: His Life and Legacy - RA

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AN EXHIBITION devoted to Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580), the first of its kind to be held in London for over 30 years, will be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts from January 31 to April 13, 2009.

Entitled Andrea Palladio: His Life and Legacy, it will celebrate the quincentenary of Palladio’s birth.

Palladio was not only one of the greatest Italian architects, he was also a practitioner whose work has continued to resonate down five centuries. Active in Vicenza, Venice and the Veneto region, he crafted a new architectural language derived from classical sources yet shaped to fulfil the functional demands and aesthetic aspirations of his own age.

His impressive oeuvre includes public buildings and churches, although it was his town palaces and country villas that influenced subsequent generations of European and American architects.

Large-scale models, computer animations, original drawings, books and paintings will present the full range of this exceptional architect’s output and his legacy, demonstrating why Palladio’s name has been synonymous with architecture for 500 years.

The exhibition will follow Palladio’s career – from the Basilica, the earlier palaces in Vicenza and his innovative solutions to rural buildings such as the Villa Poiana and the Villa Barbaro at Maser to his great Venetian churches, culminating with the Villa Rotonda.

However, Palladio’s fame and influence rested not only on his executed buildings but also on his Four Books of Architecture (1570), in which he illustrated the basic grammar and vocabulary of architecture, his reconstructions of classical buildings, and his built and un-built projects. His language answered the practical and social needs of his time and those of later centuries. The treatise helped to spread his fame, their designs becoming models for new constructions throughout the world.

Moreover, the presence of many of his drawings in England (from 1614, when Inigo Jones brought them back with him from Vicenza) had a considerable impact on British architecture. In the early eighteenth century, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, himself the owner of a very significant number of Palladio’s drawings, initiated the Palladian Revival with his remodeling of the 17th century Burlington House in the Palladian style.

To present the extent of Palladio’s influence the exhibition will concentrate on a selection of pertinent examples. These will show how Palladio’s system of architecture was transposed and adapted to countries and contexts far from the Veneto region.

The ablest Palladians were, in fact, those who best understood that to enrich their own work with Palladio’s ideas meant to extend his method, adapting it to the needs of their own place and time, rather than building precise facsimiles of his works.

The architects who will be presented here included the two great masters of the ‘Vicenza School’ – Palladio’s jealous Vicentine follower, the brilliant Vincenzo Scamozzi and his inventive admirer Inigo Jones.

This major exhibition will explore new aspects of Palladio’s work. Drawing upon recent scolarship, it will exploit the survival of a large number of Palladio’s exceptional drawings, and a number of recently created large scale models of his major buildings. These will be complemented by specially commissioned computer animations, which will provide a “fly through” experience of visiting a Palladian building.

To contextualise his work, paintings by Titian, Veronese and El Greco will establish his circle of friends and patrons and testify to the close collaboration between architect and artist during his lifetime, while works by such artists as Canaletto will demonstrate the popularity of his buildings for 18th century ‘men of taste’.

Palladio has been called the ‘architects’ architect’. As a unique counterpart to this exhibition, the Royal Academy of Arts Architecture Programme is commissioning a selection of contemporary architects to give their personal responses to Palladio in The Architecture Space. These architects will be challenged to create a narrative which will be presented through interviews, images and documentation. A dynamic dialogue is created between the architectural minds of today and their relationship to this architectural heritage.

Eric Parry Architects will design the exhibition, with the gallery spaces reflecting the intimacy and immediacy of Palladio’s drawings, allowing his vision to be shared with the visitor. Eric Parry was elected a Royal Academician in 2006.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue edited by Guido Beltramini and Howard Burns, with contributions from leading scholars in the field.

Tickets: £9 full price; £8 registered disabled and 60+ years; £7 NUS/ISIC cardholders; £4 12 to 18 years and Income Support; £3 8 to 11 years; 7 and under free.

Times: Daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission 5.30pm), Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm).

To book tickets in advance, call 0844 209 1919 or visit the website

Byzantium 330 – 1453 continues at the Royal Academy until March 22, 2009.
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