Palladio: the father of Renaissance architecture

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A major exhibition at the Royal Academy celebrates the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio this Spring. His reliance on Roman heritage may have been misguided.

In 1816 Colonel Isaac A. Coles described his conversations with the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. They had" conversed at length on the subject of architecture". Palladio, Jefferson had said,"was the Bible – you should get it and stick close to it".

Thomas Jefferson was an exceptional man, a founding father of the United States, as well as being an amateur architect. His views about the art of building, however, were conventional for an English-speaking gentleman of the 18th century. He thought that subject had been summed up for all time by Andrea Palladio over two centuries before.

Palladio (1508-80), was, as the art historian James Ackerman roundly put it,"the most imitated architect in history". This spring the 500th anniversary of his birth is celebrated by a major exhibition at the Royal Academy,"Andrea Palladio: His Life and Legacy".

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