PALLADIANISM AND THE PICTURESQUE

Palladianism is the name given to the English design movement of the eighteenth century which consciously appropriated the forms developed by the Italian Renaissance architect Palladio for new purposes. The British architect Inigo Jones travelled to Italy in the early seventeenth century and discovered the works of Palladio; his Banqueting House at Whitehall was a completely novel building in medieval London which expressed many Palladian ideas: a classical vocabulary, rusticated base, the use of the orders, a clear separation between various parts of the building.

Nearly a century later, the Palladian architects continued Jones' understanding of the Italian architect, mostly through publications such as Colen Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus. The accession to the throne of George I in 1714 opened an era of conservative taste, and brought on a great boom in country house building among the English aristocracy. An example is Chiswick of 1726, the home of Richard Boyle or Lord Burlington, one of the most important patrons in the history of architecture. Educated aristocrats like Boyle were typically architectural enthusiasts, fuelled by their experiences of the so-called Great Tour. It clearly harkens back to Palladio's Villa Rotunda, but the plan of Chiswick has a variety of room shapes, rather than an bi-axial symmetry. In this way, Chiswick is a sort of "travel log" of its owner's experiences.

The immediate context of the Palladian villa acted as an important counterpoint to its classicism: the picturesque garden. Our example is Stourhead, which was essentially a romantic circuit around a man-made lake, designed to appear natural. The picturesque garden included classical buildings, a grotto and hermitage, antique statues, and references to literature and painting.

The notion of the picturesque also affected the planning of buildings, which is perhaps most obvious in the work of British architect Robert Adam. Houses like Syon House (1762-69), in which each room is a different shape and recalls a different classical prototype, are the architectural corollaries to the picturesque garden.

Palladianism had an enormous impact on architecture in North America. Monticello was the influential home of Thomas Jefferson, another architect-gentleman, who brought European architectural ideas to Virginia from Paris. Like Chiswick, Monticello is a record of its famous owner's education and travels, as well as a laboratory for Jefferson's unique way of solving problems.



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