Architecture of Chiswick House
Chiswick House is an example of English Palladian Architecture in Burlington Lane, Chiswick, in the London Borough of Hounslow in England. Arguably the finest remaining example of Neo-Palladian architecture in London, the house was designed by Lord Burlington, and completed in 1729. The architectural historian Richard Hewlings has established that Chiswick House was an attempt by Lord Burlington to create a Roman villa, rather than Renaissance pastiche, situated in a symbolic Roman garden. Chiswick House is inspired in part by several buildings of the 16th-century Italian architects Andrea Palladio (1508–1580) and his assistant Vincenzo Scamozzi (1552–1616). The house is often said to be directly inspired by Palladio's Villa Capra ""La Rotonda"" near Vicenza, due to the fact that architect Colen Campbell had offered Lord Burlington a design for a villa very closely based on the Villa Capra for his use at Chiswick. However, although still clearly influential, Lord Burlington had rejected this design and it was subsequently used at Mereworth Castle, Kent. Lord Burlington was not just restricted to the influence of Andrea Palladio as his library list at Chiswick indicates. He owned books by influential Italian Renaissance architects such as Sebastiano Serlio and Leon Battista Alberti and his library contained books by French architects,sculptors, illustrators and architectural theorists such as Jean Cotelle, Philibert de l'Orme, Abraham Bosse, Jean Bullant, Salomon de Caus, Roland Fréart de Chambray, Hugues Sambin, Antoine Desgodetz, and John James's translation of Claude Perrault's Treatise of the Five Orders. Whether Palladio's work inspired Chiswick or not, the Renaissance architect exerted an important influence on Lord Burlington through his plans and reconstructions of lost Roman buildings; many of these unpublished and little known, were purchased by Burlington on his second Grand Tour and housed in the Blue Velvet Room, which served as his study. These reconstructions were the source for many of the varied geometric shapes within Burlington's Villa, including the use of the octagon, circle and rectangle (with apses). Possibly the most influential building reconstructed by Palladio and used at Chiswick was the monumental Roman Baths of Diocletian: references to this building can be found in the Domed Hall, Gallery, Library and Link rooms.Burlington's use of Roman sources can be viewed in the steep-pitched dome of the villa which is derived from the Pantheon in Rome. However, the source for the octagonal form of the dome, the Upper Tribunal, Lower Tribunal and cellar at Chiswick all possibly derive from Vincenzo Scamozzi's Rocca Pisana near Vicenza. Burlington may also have been influenced in his choice of octagon from the drawings of the Renaissance architect Sebastiano Serlio (1475–1554), or from Roman buildings of antiquity (for example, Lord Burlington owned Andrea Palladio's drawings of the octagonal mausoleum at Diocletian's Palace at Split in modern Croatia). Archaeological remains have shown the Roman willingness to experiment with different geometric forms in their buildings, such as the underground octagonal hall in Nero's Domus Aurea.The brick-built Villa's facade is faced in Portland stone, with a small amount of stucco. The finely carved Corinthian capitals on the projecting six-column portico at Chiswick, carved by John Boson, are derived from Rome's Temple of Castor and Pollux. The inset door, projecting plinth and 'v'-necked rusticated vermiculation (resembling tufa) were all derived from the base of Trajan's Column. The short sections of crenellated wall with ball finials which extend out either side of the villa were symbolic of medieval (or Roman) fortified town walls and were inspired by their use by Palladio at his church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice and by Inigo Jones (1573–1652) (Palladio also produced woodcuts of the Villa Foscari with crenellated sections of walls in his I quattro libri dell'architettura in 1570, yet in reality they were never built). To reinforce this link two full-length statues of Palladio and Jones by the celebrated Flemish-born sculptor John Michael Rysbrack (1694–1770) are positioned in front of these sections of wall. Palladio's influence can also be found in the general cubic form of the villa with its central hall with other rooms leading off its axis. The villa is a half cube of 70 feet (21 m) by 70 feet (21 m) by 35 feet. Inside are rooms of 10 feet (3.0 m) square, 15 feet (4.6 m) square and 15 feet (4.6 m) by 20 feet (6.1 m) by 25 feet. The distance from the apex of the dome to the base of the cellar is 70 feet (21 m), making the whole pile fit within a perfect, invisible cube. However, the decorative cornice at Chiswick was derived from a contemporary source, that of James Gibbs's cornice at the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.On the portico leading to the Domed Hall is positioned a bust of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Augustus was regarded by many of the early 18th-century English aristocracy as the greatest of all the Roman Emperors (the early Georgian era was known as the Augustan Age). This link with the Emperor Augustus was reinforced in the garden at Chiswick through the presence of Egyptianizing objects such as sphinxes (who symbolically guard the 'Temple' front and rear), obelisks and stone lions. Lord Burlington and his contemporaries were conscious of the fact that it was Augustus who invaded Egypt and brought back Egyptian objects and erected them in Rome. The influence of Rome manifested itself at Chiswick through Burlington's strategic deployment of statues, including those of a Borghese gladiator, a Venus de' Medici, a wolf (used to inspire nostalgic memories of the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, a goat (symbolising the zodiac of Capricorn, the birth sign of the Emperor Augustus) and a boar located at the rear of the Villa (symbolic of the great Boar hunt). Inside the Villa many references to the Roman goddess Venus abound, as Venus was the mother of Aeneas who fled Troy and co-founded Rome. On the forecourt to the Villa are several 'term' statues that derive their forms from the Roman god Terminus, the god of distance and space. Such items therefore are used as boundary markers, positioned in the hedge at set distances apart.At the rear of the Villa were positioned 'herm' statues that derive from the Greek god Hermes, the patron of travellers and thus are welcoming figures for all who wish to visit Lord Burlington's gardens (Lord Burlington's gardens at Chiswick were the most visited of all London villas. A small entrance charge applied).Lord Burlington's intentions for his villa have never been established and received much speculation. The memoirist and gossip, John, Lord Hervey, for example, described the newly built Villa as 'Too small to live in, and too big to hang to a watch'. John Clerk of Penicuik described it as 'Rather curious than convenient', whilst Horace Walpole referred to the villa as 'the beautiful model'. Burlington only spoke of his villa in passing as his 'toy'. For the most part Burlington's intention for his new building remains a mystery. What is certain is that the villa was never intended for occupation as it contained no kitchens and space for only three beds on the ground floor. It is possible that one purpose of the Villa was as an art gallery, as inventories show more than 167 paintings hanging in situ at Chiswick House in Lord Burlington's lifetime, many purchased on his two Grand Tours of Europe.