Andrea Palladio was among the most significant sixteenth-century Italian ar­chitects and almost unquestionably the most influential figure in Western post­Renaissance architectural theory. Palladio was born Andrea di Pietro della Gondola in Padua in 1508. As a young man, he benefited from the encourage­ment of a number of patrons, including Gian Giorgio Trissino,* who helped launch the young stonemason's career as an architect and who gave him the sobriquet "Palladio." Even in his formative years, Palladio had a penchant for the symmetrical, hierarchical principles of design that would later make his reputation, as evidenced by his sketches, which often rationalize and harmonize the less orderly structures of classical antiquity he viewed as he traveled through­out northern Italy and Rome.
Palladio's career can be divided into two major phases. From the late 1530s he worked largely on aristocratic palaces and villas in the Veneto, a rich agri­cultural area east of Venice that during this period was under Venetian political control. The "Palladian villas" that still grace the countryside around the Italian city of Vicenza were the product of a unique combination of Palladio's archi­tectural talents and larger economic and political forces. Palladio's neoclassical designs precisely suited aristocratic patrons eager to assert their wealth and status by appealing to classical antiquity, but they were also sought because they were pragmatic and relatively inexpensive to build. Palladian villas could be built in stages, as the patron's finances permitted, and they were rarely designed with expensive stone carvings or other embellishments. In a climate of intense com­petition for impressive architectural self-promotion and in an uncertain economy, Palladio's designs appealed aesthetically and pragmatically. In addition, during this period he also worked on several civic projects, most notably the magnifi­cent basilica in Vicenza (1549).
Palladio continued to design villas and palaces, including the famous Villa Rotonda near Vicenza (1566-70) that has inspired imitations across the world, but from 1560 he began also to design ecclesiastical buildings, many of them in Venice. In the early sixteenth century, church architecture had stagnated, but the impetus of the Council of Trent and the general atmosphere of Catholic reforms freed ecclesiastical architects to experiment with new ideas. Palladio applied many of his by-then-trademark neoclassical motifs and techniques to sacred buildings: symmetry, simplicity, and order, as well as a distinctive atten-tiveness to interior light and colors. His designs marked a radical departure from the dark, sometimes-cluttered Gothic designs of previous centuries.
Palladio's influence upon Western architecture can hardly be overstated. With the publication of his Quattro libri dell'architettura (The Four Books of Ar­chitecture) in 1570, builders and designers across Europe, without the expense and difficulties of traveling to the Veneto, had ready access to the principles of Palladian architecture: symmetry and hierarchy, proportion, harmony, and an intense, mathematical concern for the relation of individual elements to each other and to the whole design. I quattro libri became the single most influential work of neoclassical architectural theory and inspired generations of disciples, imitators, and simplifiers whose works can be seen in neoclassical edifices throughout Europe and North America and, indeed, across the globe.
J. S. Ackerman, Palladio, 1966.
L. Puppi, Andrea Palladio, trans. Pearl Sanders, 1975.
R. Wittkower, Palladio and Palladianism, 1974.
Thomas G. Olsen

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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