Villa Barbaro

Maser, Italy

Villa Barbaro, also known as the Villa di Maser, was designed and built by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio, with frescos by Paolo Veronese and sculptures by Alessandro Vittoria for Daniele Barbaro.

The villa was probably built between 1558 and 1570. After the Barbaro family died out, the villa passed through the female line into the ownership of the Trevisan and then the Basadonna families, followed by the Manin. Ludovico Manin, Venice’s last doge, sold it to Gian Battista Colferai who had rented for some years.

Having been allowed to become ruinous in the villa was purchased in 1850 by the wealthy industrialist Sante Giacomelli who began to renovate it, making use of the work of artists like Zanotti and Eugene Moretti Larese. During the Great War, the villa was used as a headquarters by General Squillaci of the Italian Third Army.

In 1934, Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata, founder of the Venice Film Festival and father of Giovanni Volpi, acquired the villa for his daughter Marina, who continued the restoration. Marina’s descendants still live there today.

In 1996 UNESCO declared the villa to be part of a World Heritage Site, 'City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto' which includes more than twenty villas. It is open to the public. The complex is also home to a farm that produces wine named after the villa.

Architecture

Palladio planned the villa on low lines extending into a large park. The ground floor plan is complex - rectangular with perpendicular rooms on a long axis, the central block projects and contains the principal reception room. The central block, which is designed to resemble the portico of a Roman temple, is decorated by four Ionic columns. The central block is surmounted by a large pediment with heraldic symbols of the Barbaro family in relief.

The central block is flanked by two symmetrical wings. The wings have two floors but are fronted by an open arcade. Usually Palladio designed the wings to provide functional accommodation for agricultural use. The Villa Barbaro is unusual in having private living quarters on the upper level of the 'barchesse' (rooms behind the arcades of the two wings). The Maser estate was a fairly small one and would not have needed as much storage space as was built at Villa Emo, for example.

The wings are terminated by pavilions which feature large sundials set beneath their pediments. The pavilions were intended to house dovecotes on the uppermost floor, while the rooms below were for wine-making, stables and domestic use. In many of Palladio's villas similar pavilions were little more than mundane farm buildings behind a concealing facade. A typical feature of Palladio's villa architecture, they were to be much copied and changed in the Palladian architecture inspired by Palladio's original designs.

Interior

The interior of the piano nobile is painted with frescoes by Paolo Veronese in the artist's most contemporary style of the period. These paintings constitute the most important fresco cycle by this artist and were inspirational to many of the frescoes painted by other villa artists at that time. The frescoes have been dated to the beginning of the 1560s, or slightly before.

Church

Towards the end of his life, Palladio received the opportunity to build a church, the Tempietto Barbaro, to serve the Villa Barbaro and the village of Maser. It is not certain when Tempietto Barbaro was built, but an inscription on the frieze dated 1580 gives the names of both Palladio and his patron Marcantonio Barbaro. The Tempietto and the Teatro Olimpico were Palladio's last works and tradition says that he died at Maser while working on the building.

At Maser the patron and the architect agreed on a centralised building closely following classical models. The connection of a temple front to a domed building refers to the Pantheon. A portico that is drawn out a long way, and has unusually steep proportions, leads along with the diagonal parts of the gable to two small bell-towers, which for their part pass on the upward-moving trend to the dome. The five spaces between the columns are framed by pillars, which are like the middle four columns in their entasis and tapering. The facade probably faced on to a small square originally.

The interior has stucco decorations attributed to Alessandro Vittoria. An entablature is finished with a rich decoration of cherubs and tendrils and creates a transition to the dome vault, along with a balustrade. Palladio alternates deep niches on a rectangular ground-plan and closed wall areas with figure tabernacles between the eight regular half-columns. The lower part of the building is completed by an unbroken continuous ledge, whose profile- three flat bands which are contrasted with each other by ovolo moulding- is taken over from the arcade arches. The architect contrasts two forms of cylinder and semi-sphere by a repeated emphasis on horizontals, and, over and above that, divides them into a palpable terrestrial zone and into a light, celestial one that cannot be precisely gaugued with the eye.

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Address

Via Cornuda 7, Maser, Italy
See all sites in Maser

Details

Founded: 1558-1570
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Italy

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

john wilkes (11 months ago)
Stunning Palladian villa, with wonderful frescoes. Sadly, no photographs are allowed inside the building.
diana alberton (13 months ago)
The most magical place in Maser! Not to be limited to a single visit, to be able to notice a new detail in Veronese's frescoes every time. Nice little dogs (the same ones found in the frescoes) welcome visitors, and some cats appear as well (must check behind the sofa!).
edoardo davide (2 years ago)
Magnificent villa, well kept and maintained.
Olha Tikhonova (2 years ago)
Nice but very restricted. Photos not allowed inside the building.
Uldis Rutkaste (3 years ago)
Only a few rooms available for visit. The property is not well maintained. The carridge collection suppossd to be on site, but we could not find it and there was no staff to show us the way to it. Buy of course there is a great historical value of the property and if you know what you are looking for please be encouraged to go and see it.
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