I quattro libri dell'architettura (Four Books on Architecture)
Printed by Dominico de' Franceschi in Venice, 1570
Opening: Plan and Elevation of Villa La Rotonda
Gift of Paul Mellon, 1979
The architect Andrea Palladio's literary masterwork, the treatise I quattro libri dell'architettura, begun in 1555, profoundly influenced Western architecture.
This illustration presents a plan and an elevation of Palladio's Villa La Rotonda, just outside Vicenza. The design is for a completely symmetrical building with a square plan around a central circular hall with a dome. Each of the four facades has a portico.
In 1469—some fourteen years after Johannes Gutenberg printed a bible using movable type—this transformative technology arrived in Venice, and the city rapidly became Europe's preeminent center for book publishing. During the last few decades of the fifteenth century, a new kind of volume appeared: the hand-illuminated printed book. Trained scribes and artists carefully added chapter headings, initials, borders, and lavish frontispieces to the printed text. These luxury items were created for a wealthy and prominent clientele—predominantly Venetian nobility.
The impossibility of hand decorating ever-increasing numbers of books led Venetian printers to adopt mechanical means to embellish their printed texts. From the 1490s, it became common to illustrate books by incorporating woodcuts. As the market for printed material flourished, artists such as Titian and Battista Franco produced masterly woodcuts and engravings to enhance their reputations.