A Master’s Biography
This english edition of the Italian original is a gem of a book because of its size, its presentation, the quality of the paper used and the caliber of the images included. A warning, though: it is not, as one would assume, a book about architecture.
The title is ambiguous and deceiving. In just a hundred pages that read fast and entertainingly, Guido Beltramini does not talk about the private commissions of Andrea Palladio: palaces, villas, domestic architecture. What then? And why is it of interest? The book is not even about the architect’s work, so well known, but about his private life. It is a serious, well-grounded inquiry into his origins, family circumstances, education and professional ups and downs, and even into continued doubts surrounding his death and place of burial.
Beltramini also addresses Palladio’s historic and social context, dwelling with gusto on his marriage, his children – two of whom seem to have been involved in criminal and heretic affairs – and money matters. Questions arise. What for all this? If it is his oeuvre that matters, why look at his private life? Is one’s work determined by private life? Is it better or worse on account of it?
Beltramini seems to offer an answer towards the end of the book, justifying one’s having read it: Palladio and most of his clients believed in architecture’s transformative power: through it, the world and its inhabitants could improve. The rest, as Hamlet put it, may be silence.