Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, known as Andrea Palladio, was an Italian architect who lived during the 1500s. He was one of the leading figures of the Renaissance, a man who remodeled classical architecture in light of modern ideals. Palladio was born in Padua on November 30, 1508, into a family of humble means. As a boy he began working as a stonecutter. At 16, he moved to Vicenza and became an apprentice sculptor, collaborating on important works like the Main Altar of the Vicenza Cathedral. Despite his youth and inexperience, his talent made him stand out. At around 30 he met noble writer and poet Gian Giorgio Trissino, who recognized his talent and became his patron. Trissino introduced him into cultural circles in the Veneto region, encouraging the architect to further his education, and to focus on classicism in particular. Trissino began to call him Palladio, a name inspired by classical culture.
Palladio took frequent research trips with his patron, often to Rome, where he admired Renaissance masterpieces and carefully studied ancient monuments. He was impressed with the Pantheon, an enormous Roman temple with a vast, hemispherical cupola. Palladio’s first important commissions were for residences for Vicenza nobility. Right form the start, his style was balanced, based on the harmony of proportions. Once he’d established his reputation, Palladio received his first public commission. He was charged with restructuring the “Palazzo della Ragione” in Vicenza, subsequently known as the Palladian Basilica . The architect transformed the ancient palazzo into a monumental building with recurring classic elements, such as a double loggia, Serlian windows, columns, and statues above the façade. Over subsequent years Palladio transformed Vicenza and the Veneto countryside, mostly by designing villas for the nobility. In his buildings, the classical approach was simplified and reduced to a minimum. Each project became an example of restraint, balance and sobriety.
Increasingly famous, the Palladio style also took hold in Venice, where he mostly designed religious buildings. One of his most famous Venetian works is the Church of the Redeemer, located directly on the lagoon. The building has a hemispherical cupola and a recurring triangular motif on the façade, based on the shape of ancient pediments. Palladio’s last masterpiece was the Olympic Theater in Vicenza, inspired by the ancient Roman theaters. Andrea Palladio died in Veneto on August 19, 1580. He left behind a wealth of architectural works and an important theoretical treatise, The Four Books on Architecture. Palladio’s architecture became a model for Italian and international neoclassicism, and inspired the eponymous style, Neopalladianism.