Chiswick House, London
18th century

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Notes in italics from London 3: North West by Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner (1991)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London

Chiswick House         Chiswick House 1        Chiswick House 2

The most famous C18 Palladian villa, a small but splendid recreation of the antique spirit. The formal cube, with its smooth, sparkling walls, crisply carved detail, and distinctive shallow dome and obelisk chimneys, now stands in jewel-like isolation. This is misleading, for the villa built in 1727-9 by Richard Boyle, third Earl of Burlington, was planned as an adjunct to a Jacobean house which stood immediately to the E and was linked to it after 1732. In 1788 the old house was demolished. ... But the villa does not stand quite on its own because Burlington's small link building ... and his adjoining summer parlour were both preserved. ... The villa is now the property of English Heritage; the grounds are a public park.
    Chiswick became well known through its publication in Kent's "Designs of Inigo Jones" (1727), and its details were imitated throughout the C18. However, it was too idiosyncratic and personal a creation to become as influential a Palladian prototype as Campbell's Mereworth  and Stourhead, or Morris's Marble Hill. ...
    Burlington employed draughtsmen, but was himself responsible for the design of the house. It is loosely inspired by Palladio's Villa Rotonda but is not a direct copy of it, as Campbell's slightly earlier Mereworth was ... 

Chiswick House 3        Chiswick House 4        Chiswick House 5

The eclectic details derive from both antique and C16 Italian sources, for Palladio was only a means to Burlington's chief end, the revival of the architectural traditions of the classical world. Thus the shallow stepping of the dome is borrowed from the Pantheon, the lunette windows of the lantern from the baths of Diocletian, and the richly modelled entrance portico on the SE side, with its six Corinthian columns, takes its cornice and capitals from Roman temples. 

Chiswick House 6          Chiswick House 7

But the relationship of the basement to the portico comes from Palladio's Villa Foscari, and its boldly textured rustication in imitation of tufa from his Palazzo Thiene. Burlington's originality lies in his deployment of such classical and C16 Italian borrowings side by side with features more in tune with the Baroque spirit of his age, of which the most remarkable is the double staircase leading up to the portico, a design far more spectacular and complex than Palladio would have tolerated. The balusters however are not of the Baroque urn type but symmetrical, a Jonesian motif, as is the row of ball-shaped finials along the low screen walls extending beyond the entrance front. ...

Chiswick House 8

The other fronts of the house, instead of striving for the four-square symmetry of the Villa Rotonda, adopt the popular C16 Italian feature of the tripartite or Venetian window as their principal motif. On NE and SW sides there is one large central window austerely isolated in much blank wall, on the NW side a more festive arrangement of three Venetian windows , each framed by an outer arch (a type that inspired many C18 copies). The centre opening forms a door to the garden staircase. This facade is based on an unpublished Palladio drawing in Burlington's possession.

The sumptuous and colourful main reception rooms come as a surprise after the chaste exterior, in a manner that would have been approved by Inigo Jones. ... Pictures here.     

Chiswick House Website at English Heritage

More pictures and architectural information
by Mary Ann Sullivan at the website of Bluffton University, Ohio


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