- Palladio's Rome: A Translation of Andrea Palladio's Two Guidebooks to Rome
Andrea Palladio (1508-80) is best known for his majestic, temple-like buildings, crowning villa landscapes, scenic urban palaces, piazzas, churches, theaters for the Vicentine nobility and the Venetian Republic, and his Quattro libri dell'architettura (Venice, 1570), a theoretical plate book of classical exempla in the new literary-to-visual tradition of Vitruvian, Albertian, and Bramantean humanist architecture and urbanism. Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks, of the University of Bath and Foundation Napoléon (Paris), have made Palladio's two popular and important (while little-known and, in many respects, complementary) guidebooks to the antiquities and churches of Rome accessible for the first time in English translation. The new editions of these guidebooks, L'antichità di Roma di M. Andrea Palladio, raccolta brevemente da gli autori antichi, & moderni and Descrittione de le chiese, stationi, indulgenze & reliquie de Corpi Sancti, che sono in la città de Roma, both published in Rome in 1554, come with learned commentary and historical introduction, in a pocket-guidebook format appropriate for travel site and use, with fifty black-and-white and fifty color photographs, and contemporary urban print views, plans, elevations, and models.
Previously, Eunice Howe translated and edited Palladio's guidebook to Rome's churches, while highlighting the Tridentine context of this "modern" pilgrim's guide to the stational churches (that is, the relics, icons, indulgences, liturgical practices, historical foundations, and legends) of the "Eternal City," a humanist philological "reform" of the medieval twelfth-century Mirabilia urbis Romae tradition. Hart and Hicks put the two texts side by side, rightfully emphasizing their different approaches to the description of Rome as a ravaged "body" and an "ideal circular sacred radial city," reminiscent of "Vitruvian Man" (made organic, rather than simply geometric). They render the rich narrative from outside-in according to building types (walls, triumphal entrance portals, streets, bridges, public and private buildings) and inside-out (following four pilgrimage routes of church foundations radiating out from the Capitoline Hill) through this densely intermingled "hieroglyph" of ancient ruins and Christian churches. The texts suggest Rome as caput mundi, a "remembering" city as fragmentary whole, contemporary with (and drawing upon) antiquarian, humanist collecting studies and civic bird's-eye panoramic perspectives to shaded neighborhood arterial street plans from the mid-fifteenth through the sixteenth centuries. [End Page 1191]
In a series of valuable translations and commentaries, Peter Hicks published Leon Battista Alberti's Descriptio urbis Romae of the 1440s, a major precedent for this humanist "reform" of the "sacred city." The city is surveyed and measured from above, in scale, as a whole from the Capitoline "head" of the ancient and modern city, with a round calibrated disk, a rotating perspective "eye," like a compass or astrolabe navigational device on a ship, suggesting the city as "ship" or "ship of state." Following on this navigational theme, Alberti's architectural treatise (De re aedificatoria, dedicated to his patron, Pope Nicholas V, in 1452) views the ancient Tiber Island (Isola Tibertina) as a foundational and guiding ship's prow (a Pilgrim's Rock) of the Eternal City. There is also the suggestion of the city as measured in accordance with Alberti's finitorium, a gauging device to be placed upon the head of a marble block to aid in carving a classical figure in dynamic proportion from Alberti's fragmentary treatise on sculpture, De statua. The city emerges as a body, studied, drawn, surveyed, remembered, and reimagined, historically and philologically, in rinascita.
Building upon Hart and Hicks's earlier translation of Sebastiano Serlio on Architecture, Palladio's Rome further animates the architect's five "cultural pilgrimages" to Rome between 1541 and 1554, with his Vicentine humanist patrons, Giangiorgio Trissino and Daniele Barbaro. It stands as a bridge between his buildings and later treatises, in which ruins represent, tragically, the military deeds and sacred rites of ancient Rome and olive oil...