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Neither Perfect Nor Ideal: Palladio’s Villa Rotonda

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 November 2022


This article demonstrates that the most celebrated building designed by Andrea Palladio, widely known as the Villa Rotonda and begun around 1566, was left only partially constructed at the time of the architect’s death in 1580 and that, as a villa design, it was neither perfect nor ideal. Drawing on detailed records of the construction work carried out in the 1590s, the article shows that much of the villa was constructed or altered after Palladio died, in significant part so as to deal with practical difficulties and deficiencies inherent in the design originally published in Palladio’s treatise. Scholars in general have come to recognise that the Villa Rotonda is something of a palimpsest. However, it has not been properly understood that the building was largely constructed not as an adjusted scheme devised by Palladio, but rather as a strategically revised concept for a villa developed after Palladio’s time by Vincenzo Scamozzi. This preserved something of the original scheme as a hilltop belvedere — especially its outward appearance as a domed and isolated block with four near-identical porticoes — but it adapted what had been built, which was far from complete, to a much more practical vision of the requirements of rural life. What was built during this later period then remained intact until the late eighteenth century.

Research Article
© The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 2022

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