Palladio (Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, 1508–80) may have changed the face of Western architecture, but he could not have had a more unlikely background. Born in 1508 into a poor family in Padua, he was apprenticed him to a stonecutter at age 13.
Treated harshly, he ran away, taking refuge in Vicenza, where he found a job as an assistant with a kinder family of stonecutters. And so he would have remained, chiselling away, had not Dame Fortune smiled on him in 1537 and sent him to the humanist scholar Giangiorgio Trissino, to work on the villa he was redesigning at Crioli, just outside Vicenza.
Able to see a spark in Andrea that no one else had bothered to notice, Trissino became his fairy godfather, teaching him the essentials of a Renaissance education and the principles of classical architecture, especially De Architectura of Vitruvius, a Roman treatise that had been rediscovered in the 1400s.
Images by Hans A. Rosbach, MCAD Library, PD Art