If you study the ORNAMENTI website, you will see the name of Palladio mentioned on many occasions, mainly in association with fine carved limestone garden ornaments such as fountains, obelisks and garden furniture. Some designs even reference the home city of Palladio (see the Vicenza Curved Seat) or the region (see the Veneto Wall Fountain) or one of his most famous buildings (see the Rotonda Pedestal). Who was Palladio and why would a company based in North Yorkshire want to reference a man who lived 500 years ago and 1000 miles away? Let us explain…

Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) is considered to be the father of what we refer to today as classical architecture – often referred to as the Palladian style. Palladio worked as a stonemason himself before becoming a hugely influential classical architect, making Vicenza his home and designing many villas and public buildings in Vicenza and in the surrounding Veneto region of Italy. The associated stone masonry skills and quarries Palladio knew in his day survive to this day, and can now be enjoyed through unique designs in the ORNAMENTI collection. This is because all the following designs have been carved specifically for ORNAMENTI by Italian craftsmen near the city of Vicenza in the Veneto:

Brescia Wall Fountain

Piazza Fountain

Veneto Wall Fountain

Padua Seat

Vicenza Curved Seat

Elephant Obelisk

Apollo Wall Sundial

Rotonda Pedestal

The first recorded attempt to revive the architectural rules and details of the ancients was by Vitruvius, writing as early as the mid-20s BC – his studies allowed Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) to design and build based on intelligent observations of surviving ancient ruins whilst also being able ‘to Instruct the World in the Rules and Practices of the Learned Ancients, having Opportunity to observe the Foot-steps of their Labours, ev’n at Rome itself’. The first of Palladio’s five visits to Rome came in 1541 when he visited the ‘stupendous ruins’ and found them to be ‘much worthier of study than I had first thought’. Palladio’s highly influential I quattro libri dell’architettura provided the basis for what became known as the Palladian style of architecture. However, although Palladio’s works were first published in 1570, the first full English-only translation by Giacomo Leoni was not published until 1721, although earlier editions were in limited circulation.

In the early seventeenth century, Inigo Jones (1573-1652) made his journeys to the continent. His second journey to Italy in 1613-14 has been described as ‘arguably the most significant Grand Tour ever undertaken’. Jones’ acquisition of a copy of Palladio’s seminal work in Venice during 1601 was undoubtedly a significant moment, one that famously allowed Jones to bring the architecture of the ancients ‘across the Alps into our England’. Therefore, it was Inigo Jones who held the key to the development of Palladianism in England. Jones, during a second tour of Italy, purchased at least 250 further drawings by Palladio and visited many ancient and modern buildings. On his death, the drawings Jones has acquired passed to his protege, John Webb, and thence, principally, to the architect William Talman before being acquired by the influential Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington (1694-1753) in 1720-21. Hence Palladio’s influence survives and thrives to this day.

Palladianism, at its best, is a gracious style that can be adapted for contemporary living. Burlington actively promoted the cult, along with the likes of Colen Campbell and William Kent with Inigo Jones as the prophet and Vitruvius and Palladio as their gods! Today, we can still visit some of Palladio’s masterpieces and look in awe. Palladio’s Villa Emo at Fanzola, his Villa Maser (or Barbaro) and the world-famous icon – the Villa Rotonda just outside Vicenza (known as the City of Andrea Palladio) are good examples. And the Palladian style still lives on through the designs he inspires today.