Fondazione Villa Emo Onlus
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ANDREA PALLADIO'S WORK

THE ARCHITECTURE OF VILLA EMO

Dating Villa Emo is still a matter of controversy: based on the most recent studies the building date is placed between 1556 and 1559. The only certainty is that the villa was completed before 1570, because in Palladio's treatise, The Four Books on Architecture, published in Venice that same year, there is a description of the site, complete with the names of both the client and the painter who painted the frescoes.

Another important piece of evidence concerning the time of completion of the villa, is found in a parchment kept in the Emo Capodilista's archive dating back to 1559 and signed by the owner of the villa at that time, Leonardo Emo. In this parchment a request is made to the Podestà of Castelfranco to exchange land in order to square off and demarcate the entire property, which was something normally done at the end of the construction work of a building. These are, however, the only documents we have concerning the dating of the villa.

Andrea Palladio
(Padua 1508 - Maser 1580)

Andrea, the son of Pietro della Gondola, a miller, started to work as a stonemason when he was very young. At first he worked in Padua at Bartolomeo Cavazza’s workshop, then in Vicenza at Giacomo da Portaleza’s shop. Between 1535 and 1538 the life-changing meeting with the poet and humanist from Vicenza, Gian Giorgio Trissino, took place. He took the young man under his protection, called him Palladio and guided him in the study of ancient and classical culture, taking him to Rome several times. Thanks to these journeys to Rome (1341, 1545, 1547, 1549) he was able to study in depth the ancient monuments and learn about the works of famous architects in Rome in the first half of the 1500s. Following the death of Trissino in 1550, Daniele Barbaro, Patriarch of Aquileia and learned humanist, became the architect’s mentor. With him Palladio made his last journey to Rome (1554) and collaborated with him by doing the illustrations for the De Architectura by Vitruvius, which Barbaro was translating and commenting on, and would then publish in Venice in 1556. 

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On the basis of the Vitruvian treatises and direct study of the monuments, Palladio assimilated the morphological elements of the classical language; he put them together, combined or contrasted them with the utmost freedom of the inventor of a new architectural language. In 1549 the Council of Ten in Vicenza commissioned him to undertake the reconstruction of the Palace of the Region, which is nowadays known as the Palladian Basilica; this appointment will permanently earn him the ‘title’ of architect to the Venetian aristocracy. They will commission him to build villas and palaces. Among these the most important are: Palazzo Porto e Palazzo Chiericati in Vicenza, Villa Pojana at Pojana Maggiore, Villa Barbaro at Maser, Villa Emo at Fanzolo, Villa Foscari known as La Malcontenta at Mira, Villa Capra known as La Rotonda in Vicenza. Thanks to the influence of the powerful Barbaro family, Palladio started to get important commissions in Venice too, especially in religious architecture (San Giorgio Maggiore, Redentore, the façade of San Francesco della Vigna) In 1570 he was named Proto of the Serenissima (the official architect in the city) taking over from Jacopo Sansovino. In the same year he published in Venice The Four Books on Architecture, a treatise he had been working on ever since he was a young man in which most of his works are illustrated. His last undertaking was the Olympic Theatre in Vicenza which was started the year of his death and was completed by Vincenzo Scamozzi; when Palladio died in 1580 most of his works had only been partially realized; some constructions sites were taken over and the work completed by Scamozzi. Other works were completed many years later on the basis of the drawings published in The Four Books on Architecture

The positioning of Villa Emo in the wider property is based on two directions that are perpendicular to each other, a horizontal one which is the villa itself and a vertical one which is the path leading to the villa, originally completely tree-lined with poplars, which in the XVI century represented an important road sign for passing travellers in the land of the Emo family. From the architectural point of view the central body in the villa façade immediately stands out. It is slightly projecti...

The barchesse, that is the two long porticoed side wings which start from the main body of the villa, are at the core of the agricultural company: they are two identical blocks, each with eleven big rounded arches. In Palladio’s design, visible in his treatise, The Four Books on Architecture, the eleven arches on each side only join the Villa perspectively because in actual fact the lateral bodies and the central one are separated by the measurement of three spans. Palladio creates in this manne...

The existence of a place of worship in the building by Andrea Palladio is rather confused and controversial. The scholar Donata Battilotti has tried to shed some light on it.

An ambiguous testimony is provided by the pastoral visits paid by the Bishop of Treviso to Fanzolo

in 1564 and in 1567. During the latter in fact, on the 2nd of May, the oratory of the villa was consecrated,

which indicates that on the previous visit the oratory had not been built or finished yet.

However, the building mentione...

The main body of Villa Emo is, as is customary in the Palladian villas, split into three storeys in accordance with the operational functions of the Venetian villa. On the ground floor there were the kitchens, now replaced by modern kitchens that were used for the catering service of the disused hotel. Currently they can be used for events at the villa. On the main floor (piano nobile) there were the rooms where the noble man, his family and their guests lived. They were completely decorated wit...

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