Barbaro, Daniele
Palladio, Andrea (illustrator)

Title I dieci libri dell’architettura...
Imprint Venice, F. Marcolini, 1556
Localisation Einsiedeln, Stiftung Bibliothek Werner Oechslin, A 04f
Subject Architecture
Transcribed version of the text


     The Italian translation of Vitruvius' De architectura, illustrated and annotated by Daniele Barbaro (1514-1570), a Venitian patrician, was published in Venice in 1556 by the publisher Francesco Marcolini, a central personage in the world of Venitian publishing during the middle of the 16th century.  He had already published the Terzo libro (1540) and the Quarto libro (1537) by Sebastiano Serlio, as well as a short treatise on the Ionic volute by Giuseppi Salviati (1552), dedicated to Barbaro.  This important publication was the fourth translation of Vitruvius into Italian during the Renaissance and the sixth in a European vernacular (one translation into French and one into German were published respectively by Jean Martin and Walther Hermann Ryff in 1547 and 1548 in Paris and in Nuremberg).  A revised edition in a smaller format was published in 1567 in Venice by Francesco De Franceschi who also published, the same year and for the first time, the Latin edition annotated by Barbaro.  Two preparatory manuscripts relative to the Italian editions are kept at the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice (CL. IV, cod. It. 152 [=4106] and 37 [=5133]).
The original goal of the 1556 Italian edition of Vitruvius was to make available to architects who did not master Latin a reliable text of a lexicographical quality superior to that of the three preceding Italian translations published in 1521, 1524 and 1536, by including a faithful restitution of antique architecture as Vitruvius describes it.  In other words, this publication aimed at combining the strictly philological and archeological study of Vitruvius' text with an annotation which would also act as an architectural treatise for contemporary practice.
In his grand editorial enterprise, Daniele Barbaro profited from a close collaboration with Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), the architect from Vicenza.  Palladio was not satisfied simply to draw the most important illustrations in books I-VI of the 1556 Vitruvius, but also contributed to the annotations and the elucidation of certain obscurities in Vitruvius' text thanks to the vast archeological experience he acquired during the five periods he stayed in Rome between 1541 and 1554.  He studied Vitruvius as early as the years 1535/7-1540 during his association with his first patron, the patrician from Vicenza Gian Giorgio Trissino.  Armed with profound knowledge of the authors of antiquity as well as Greek and Latin, Barbaro was a more competent translator and annotator of Vitruvius than his predecessors, in particular Cesare Cesariano, Durantino and Gian Battista Caporali, artists (architects and painters) who had no classical university training.  On the other hand, he lacked experience in archeology and architecture, which probably prompted him to appeal to Palladio, who according to Barbaro built buildings in Veneto competing with those of antiquity, "superbi edificij… che contendono con gli antichi" (1567, It. ed., p. 64).  The combination of Barbaro's classical erudition and philological abilities and Palladio's archeological and architectural expertise marks the peak of nearly a century of research on Vitruvius' text and confers great scientific value to this editorial collaboration.
A comparison of Palladio's illustrations for the 1556 Barbaro edition of Vitruvius with the woodcuts in the Fra Giocondo 1511 edition shows that Giocondo's perfunctory illustrations were closely studied by Palladio.  He usually used them as a starting point for his own reconstructions.  In most cases, Giocondo only reconstructed the floor plans of the antique edifices Vitruvius describes, omitting elevations and cross sections.  On the other hand, Palladio's normal procedure consisted in presenting an antique edifice in three aspects: first the floor plan of the building corresponding to Vitruvius' ichnographia, then elevations of the exterior walls drawn sometimes in proportion with a half-plan, corresponding to Vitruvius' orthographia, and finally the cross section drawn in agreement with Barbaro's definition of the concept of sciographia, a Latin term which he translates by "profilo" (cross section) and which he substitutes arbitrarily for scænographia eventhough this last term was authoritative in Vitruvius' manuscripts.  The term scænographia used by Vitruvius in book I (I, 2, 2) was interpreted by Barbaro and by all the annotators of the 16th century to mean a rendering in perspective, a technique of architectural representation which Barbaro judged less useful than the cross section (in fact perspective was practically never used in the Vitruvius 1556 illustrations and was only allowed by Barbaro as the subsidiary representation of the dispositio, since for him the three fundamental and necessary methods of representation of an architectural project were the floor plan, the elevation and the cross section).
Palladio's illustrations for Barbaro show considerable progress in comparison with preceding editions.  For example, Palladio added new illustrations which do not appear in the preceding editions of Vitruvius, such as the cross section and elevation of the Roman house reconstructed for the first time in an edition of Vitruvius with a portico with its temple pediment, the cross section of the Roman theatre and the elevation of the scænæ frons of the Roman theatre, which are important reconstructions for the development of Palladio's architecture from 1550 on.  The 1556 edition also presents for the first time a new graphic interpretation of the basilica built in Fano (probably destroyed in the 13th century) which he describes in Book V (V, I, 6-19) and which would be taken up in all later editions.
Among the contemporary architectural treatises that Barbaro used in his annotations one finds the Italian translation of Cesare Cesariano published in 1521, the French translation of the Medidas del Romano by Diego de Sagredo, known by the name of Raison d’architecture antique extraicte de Vitruve, published for the first time in Paris around 1536, the Furnembsten notwendigsten der gantzen Architectur by Walther Hermann Ryff, published in Nuremberg in 1547, the Terzo libro and the Quarto libro by Serlio, the treatise on the Ionic volute by Giuseppe Salviati published in 1552 and the manuscript of the second treatise on architecture by Francesco di Giorgio Martini (c. 1492-1495), unpublished during the Renaissance.  One copy of it is kept today at the National Library of Florence (Codice Magliabecchiano II. I. 141).  Nevertheless, the treatises Barbaro quoted the most frequently in his annotations are the De re ædificatoria by Leon Battista Alberti (quoted 23 times) and the Annotationes by Guillaume Philandrier (quoted 8 times).
The Vitruvius by Barbaro represents the culmination of Vitruvian studies during the Renaissance.  They had begun a century earlier in Tuscany with Lorenzo Ghiberti and Leon Battista Alberti, in an unprecedented development between 1511, the date of the illustrated edition by Fra Giocondo and 1544, when Guillaume Philandrier published his Latin annotations on the antique author in Rome, as a result of his learned discussions with the members of the humanist Claudio Tolomei's Accademia della Virtù.  Except for the less erudite, posthumous and illustrated edition of Giovanni Antonio Rusconi, Barbaro's edition is the last major edition to appear in Europe until the publication in 1673 of the French edition by Claude Perrault.

Louis Cellauro (LARHRA, Lyon) – 2010


Critical bibliography

J. S. Ackerman, "Daniele Barbaro and Vitruvius", C. L. Striker (ed.), Architectural Studies in Memory of Richard Krautheimer, Mainz, von Zabern, 1996, pp. 1-5.

A. Becker, Ammerkungen zu Vitruv, Doctoral dissertation, University of Mainz, 1991.

P. Caye, Le savoir de Palladio: architecture, métaphysique et politique dans la Venise du Cinquecento. Précédé du Commentaire au "De Architectura" de Vitruve: livres 1, 2 et 3 par Mgr. Daniel Barbaro, Paris, Klincksieck, 1995.

P. Caye, L. Moretti, F. Lemerle, V. Zara (ed.), Daniele Barbaro 1514-1570. Vénitien, patricien, humaniste, Turnhout, Brepols, 2017.

L. Cellauro, Daniele Barbaro and His Venetian Editions of Vitruvius of 1556 and 1567, PhD dissertation, Courtauld Institute of Art, London University, 1996.

L. Cellauro, "Palladio e le illustrazioni delle edizioni del 1556 e del 1567 di Vitruvio", Saggi e Memorie di Storia dell’Arte, 22, 1998, pp. 55-128.

L. Cellauro, "Daniele Barbaro and his Venetian editions of Vitruvius of 1556 and 1567", Studi Veneziani, N.S. 40, 2000, pp. 87-134.

L. Cellauro, "Disegni di Palladio e di Daniele Barbaro nei manoscritti preparatori delle edizioni del 1556 e del 1567 di Vitruvio", Arte Veneta, 56, 2000-1, pp. 45-57.

L. Cellauro, "Daniele Barbaro and Vitruvius: The Architectural Theory of a Renaissance Humanist and Patron", Papers of the British School at Rome, 72, 2004, pp. 293-329.

M. M. D’Evelyn, "Venice as Vitruvius’s City in Daniele Barbaro’s Commentaries", Studi Veneziani, N.S. 32, 1996, pp. 83-104.

M. M. D’Evelyn, "Varietà and the Caryatid Portico in Daniele Barbaro’s Commentaries on Vitruvius", Annali di architettura, 10-11, 1998-1999, pp. 157-74.

V. Fontana, "‘Arte’ e ‘esperienza’ nei trattati di architettura veneziani del Cinquecento", Architettura, 7, 1978, pp. 49-72.

E. Forssman, "Palladio e Daniele Barbaro", Bolletino del Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura ‘Andrea Palladio’, 8, 1966, pp. 68-81.

F. Lemerle, « Vitruvius Pollio, I dieci libri dell’architettura [con traduzione e commento di Daniele Barbaro], In Vinegia, per Francesco Marcolini, 1556 »,  S. Marcon (a cura di), Daniele Barbaro 1514-70 Letteratura, scienza e arti nella Venezia del Rinascimento, Venezia, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana 10 dicembre 2015-31 gennaio 2016, Venezia, antigaedizioni, 2015, pp. 141-142.

B. Mitrovic, The Theory of Proportions in Daniele Barbaro’s Commentary on Vitruvius’ De Architectura, PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1996.