In a valley, between two mountain ranges named Colli Berici and Colli Euganei, nearby the road connecting Vicenza, Montagnana and Este there is a rural commune Agugliaro, with a separate part at its western margins – a former noble estate named Finale. A late Renaissance villa, founded by the noble family Saraceno, and afterwards inherited by the family Caldogno shall draw our attention1. The building is surrounded by cultivated land, fallows and groves, thus it associates perfectly with the landscape, enriched by numerous river channels and water courses.
The origin of the name Agugliaro remains unknown, however it might have its roots in the Latin word aquillarium. This word clearly refers to the network of canals and river courses developed since Roman antiquity, dug to lower the water table in the Bacchiglione river bed and the gradual drainage of the marshes dominating in this area, with the intention of transforming them into fertile fields2.In written sources, as well as on old maps, especially those created in the 16th century, you can find the names of the commune in the dialect of the Veneto region similar to the current one, for example Agujàro or Lagugiàro3.
When the west end was separated from the rest of the village and commune, it is also unknown how this could have been related to the acquisition of land by the noble Saraceno family. This family purchased a land estate to build a villa enabling, in accordance with the thought contained in Baldassare Castiglione’s (1478–1529) Book of Courtes (Il libro del Cortegiano), a life full of honor according to universal principles, and according to the guiding principle of the Four Books of Architecture (Quattro Libri dell’Architettura) by Andrea Palladio – living in harmony with nature4.
There is no doubt about the authorship of the project of the villa and the adjacent buildings, since the architect and architecture theorist Andrea Palladio (1508–1580) illustrated the entire building complex in an imagined state in his influential treatise entitled The Four Books of Architecture (Quattro Libri d’Architettura, Venezia 1570, book II, chapter XV)5. The illustrations are accompanied by a description which reports “Of the Designs of the Villa’s belonging to some gentlemen of the TERRA FIRMA” and further: “At a place in the Vicentine, called Finale, there is the following building belonging to Signor BIAGIO SARRACENO”6.
It is highly likely that the design of the villa Saraceno in Finale d’Agugliaro was established soon after Andrea Palladio had won the design contest for an outer shell of marble late Renaissance forms that would obscure the original Gothic architecture of Palazzo della Ragione in Vicenza7. It is not disputed who set up the Renaissance villa here described as well. The building complex was founded by count Biagio Saraceno, mentioned by Andrea Palladio in the cited description from The Four Books of Architecture, a member of a noble family settled in Veneto. From 1548 Biagio Saraceno was one of the patricians in Vicenza, he fulfilled other important public functions and resided at Borgo San Vito, i.e. the same street in which Andrea Palladio had his house8. The eighteenth-century architects and scholars Francesco Muttoni (1669–1747) and Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi (1719–1790), authors of critical, multi-volume catalogues of Andrea Palladio’s completed and unrealized projects (including those unpublished in his treatise) essentially repeated the set of information from The Four Books of Architecture (Quattro Libri dell’Architettura), with an additional mention of the purchase of the villa from Count Biagio Saraceno by Count Giovanni Caldogno, after whose death the estate and the complex of buildings were inherited by his grandsons9.
There is no full clarity as to the stages of the construction of the complex of buildings we are interested in, although the time frame for the construction of the villa itself can be closed between 1548 and 155510. Andrea Palladio’s drawing designs could have been created around 1548, when the founder stabilized his social status in Vicenza and has accumulated a sufficient resource of money to cover the costs of building a country house. The fact that the villa was built in the 40s and 50s of the 16th century was supported by the simplicity of the façade composition and the arrangement of rooms in the interior, characteristic of the early villas of Andrea Palladio. The villa could have been habitable as early as 1552, since then Biagio Saraceno obtained the right to fully inherit the Agugliaro estate from his father, Pietro, who in turn left his sons Biagio and Giacomo in his will of March 19, 1519 for a fair distribution of “land the size of one tithe (approximately 1.09252 ha) in Alfinale”11.
The takeover of the property is confirmed by the deed of granting of June 27, 1557, where Count Biagio Saraceno is listed as the owner of “the house and yard in Alfinale (sic!)”12. In the light of the above arguments, one should reject the dating of the villa Saraceno for the years 1568-1570, suggested around the middle of the 19th century by Antonio Magrini, who tried as well to close the time of the construction of the villas Pisani in Bagnolo di Lonigo, Pojana in Pojana Maggiore, Angarano in Bassano del Grappa and Thiene in Quinto Vicentino within the same years and was repeated by some researchers until the 1960s13.
The Renaissance villa, constructed in 1540s and 1550s has a rectangular ground plan and like many villas by Andrea Palladio its piano nobile is set on a low socle. Above the dominating piano nobile is a lower (covering one third of its height) mezzanine.
The main (southern) façade has modest forms, with a dominating loggia in its major axis which may be noticed in the façades of other early Palladian villas, characterized by three semi-circular arcades supported by simple pillars and crowned with a triangular gable14.
Some similarities can be seen to the façades of the villas Caldogno in Caldogno, Zeno in Donegal di Cessalto and Emo in Fanzolo, the closest relationship in terms of style is however noticeable between the façades of the villas Saraceno and Caldogno15.
The simplicity of the façade of the villa Saraceno in Finale d’Agugliaro may also be reflected in rejecting any form of vertical articulation, like columns, semi-columns or pilasters of the giant order which makes the villa increasingly similar to an early Palladian villa Godi in Lugo di Vicenza16. The side axes of the façade contain symmetrically located, rectangular, horizontally placed windows in the basement (socle), rectangular, vertically placed windows in piano nobile, with triangular pediments as well as square, simply framed windows in the mezzanine.
The northern façade is arranged very similarly to the façade, and it even seems to be a simplified version of it. Instead of a loggia, we have a portal set in the central axis, flanked by two rectangular windows. A similar arrangement of windows is also present on the west façade, although there are no horizontal, rectangular windows in the basement.
The loggia leads into the T-shaped central hall, linked to the east and west to large, symmetrically placed rectangular rooms. The central room is flanked by two small chambers on rectangular plans, with widths constituting one third of the width of the longitudinal axis of the central chamber’s horizontal projection, one of which serves as a staircase.
According to the project by Andrea Palladio in chapter XV, book 2 from The Four Books of Architecture (Quattro Libri dell’Architettura) the villa Saraceno was supposed to be the “hub” of three wings of farm buildings with porticos in the Tuscan order inspired by the ancient Greek stoa and named barchesse which enabled the swift movement between the villa and the farm buildings, as illustrates the cross section in a drawing by Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi17. The whole building complex was supposed to have a horse-shoe ground plan18. Two counterparts (towers) for the villa itself were envisaged in the corners of the barchesse.
This version of the Palladio’s project has never been completed, most likely for the lack of financial assets on the part of the commissioner19. Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi even claimed (in 1780s) that only the villa followed the imagined state by Andrea Palladio in his treatise, the adjacent buildings were never completed on the contrary20. Bertotti Scamozzi’s point of view seems correct only to the extent that a cubic construction of the villa really follows the project from the Palladian Four Books of Architecture (Quattro Libri dell’Architettura). A small part of the barchessa on the east side is dated to 1606, as the former estate of the Saraceno family was acquired by the Caldogno family, while the portico in the Tuscan order was adjoined do the latter building only in 1659 and at the same time linked to the villa21. The barchessa’s current appearance, despite its style highly imitating the 16th century Palladianism, derives from early Ottocento, as the building was reconstructed after being destroyed by a fire at the end of the 18th century22.
Behind the barchessa there are the outhouses. The divergence between the plan published by Andrea Palladio and the current building complex is evident in the lack of a perpendicular wing, instead of which the former grange buildings, dated back to the 15th century were retained23.
In conclusion we could say that the villa Saraceno in Finale d’Agugliaro is one of numerous projects by Andrea Palladio from his Four Books of Architecture (Quattro Libri dell’Architettura) which has remained uncompleted. Therefore instead of the adjacent wings of longitudinal buildings which were supposed to surround the courtyard, some former buildings purchased within the manor by Count Biagio Saraceno were retained, and only a small part of the adjacent barchessa was built almost a century later. This, of course, does not change the fact that the existing building complex associates the vast landscape of agriculture lands, fallows and groves, as well as remains strongly detached from the nearby village, which makes it an original creation.
Proofread by: Anna Matus
1. Bertotti Scamozzi 1776-1783 = Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi, Le fabbriche e i disegni di Andrea Palladio raccolti ed illustrate da Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi. Opera divisa in quattro tomi con tavole in rame rappresentanti le piante, i prospetti, e gli spaccati, Vicenza 1776-1783, vol. I-IV.
2. Beltramini, Romano 2020 = Guido Beltramini, Filippo Romano, Andrea Palladio. La guida, Vicenza 2020.
3. Biegański 1965 = Piotr Biegański, I problemi della composizione spaziale delle ville palladiane, “Bollettino del Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio di Vicenza (CISA)”, 7 (1965), pp. 23-34.
4. Biegański 1968 = Piotr Biegański, La struttura architettonica di alcune ville del Palladio in rapporto alla loro funzione pratica, “Bollettino del Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio di Vicenza (CISA)”, 10 (1968), pp. 15-30.
5. Burger 1909 = Fritz Burger, Die Villen des Andrea Palladio: ein Beitrag zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Renaissance-Architektur, Leipzig 1909.
6. Cavaggioni, Zoppo 1989/1990 = Ilaria Cavaggioni, Cinzia del Zoppo, Villa Saraceno a Finale d’Agugliaro attraverso i documenti e la cartografia, “Arte veneta“, 53 (1989/1990), pp. 142-152.
7. Cevese 1973 = Renato Cevese, L’Opera del Palladio, In: Mostra del Palladio a Vicenza. Basilica Palladiana, ed. Renato Cevese, Venezia 1973, pp. 43-130.
8. Doglioni 2016 = Francesco Doglioni, Villa Saraceno de Palladio. Veinte años tras su restauración / Palladio’s villa Saraceno. Twenty years after the restoration, “Loggia. Arquitectura & Restauración”, 29 (2016)/10, pp. 102-117.
9. Fasolo 1929 = Giulio Fasolo, Le ville del Vicentino, Vicenza 1929.
10. Ivanoff 1967 = Nicola Ivanoff, Andrea Palladio. Collana dell’arte del Club del Libro, Milano 1967.
11. Kubelik 1979 = Martin Kubelik, Per una nuova lettura del secondo libro di Andrea Palladio, “Bollettino del Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio di Vicenza (CISA)”, 21 (1979), pp. 177-199.
12. Maccà 1814 = Gaetano Maccà, Storia del territorio vicentino, vol. X, Caldogno 1814.
13. Magrini 1845-1 = Antonio Magrini, Memorie intorno la vita e le opere di Andrea Palladio, Padova 1845.
14. Magrini 1845-2 = Antonio Magrini, Dell’architettura in Vicenza. Discorso con appendice critico-cronologica delle principali sue fabbriche negli ultimi otto secoli, Padova 1845.
15. Margini 1851 = Antonio Magrini, Cenni storico-critici sulla vita e sulle opere di Giovanni Antonio Fasolo, pittore vicentino, Venezia 1851.
16. Mazzotti 1961 = Giuseppe Mazzotti, Interventi dell’Ente per le ville venete in alcune ville palladiane, “Bollettino del Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio di Vicenza (CISA)”, 3 (1961), pp. 173-175.
17. Muraro, Marton 1996 = Michelangelo Muraro, Paolo Marton, Villen in Venetien, Köln 1996.
18. Muttoni 1740-1760 = Francesco Muttoni, Architettura di Andrea Palladio Vicentino di nuovo ristampata, e di Figure in Rame diligentemente intagliate arrichita, corretta, e accresciuta di moltissime Fabbriche inedite; con le osservazioni dell’Architetto N.N. e con la traduzione francese, Venezia 1740-1760, vol. I-IX.
19. Palladio 1570 = I Qvattro Libri dell’architettvra di Andrea Palladio. Ne’ quali dopo vn breue trattato de’ cinque ordini, & di quelli auertimenti, che sono piu necessarij nel fabricare, si tratta delle case priuate, delle vie, de i ponti, delle piazze, de i xisti & de tempij, con PRIVILEGI, Appresso Dominico de’ Franceschini, Venetia 1570.
20. Palladio 1738 = The four books of architecture by Andrea Palladio. Literally translated from the original Italian by Isaac Ware, London 1738.
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22. Puppi 1973 = Lionello Puppi, Andrea Palladio, Milano 1973, vol. I-II.
23. Puppi, Battilotti 2006 = Lionello Puppi, Donata Battilotti, Andrea Palladio, Milano 2006.
24. Robuschi In: Puppi et al. 2008 = Luigi Robuschi, Villa Saraceno, In: Andrea Palladio nel V Centenario della nascita (1508). Itinerari palladiani tra ville e palazzi, ed. Lionello Puppi et al., Padova 2008, pp. 56-59.
25. Trevisan, Puppi 2012 = Luca Trevisan, Lionello Puppi, Andrea Palladio. The Villas, Vicenza 2012.
26. Wittkower 1966 = Rudolf Wittkower, Palladio e Bernini, “Bollettino del Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio di Vicenza (CISA)”, 8 (1966), pp. 13-25.
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29. Zorzi 1969-1 = Giangiorgio Zorzi, Le ville e i teatri di Andrea Palladio, Trieste–Vicenza 1969.
30. Zorzi 1969-2 = Giangiorgio Zorzi, La datazione delle ville palladiane, “Bollettino del Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio di Vicenza (CISA)”, 11 (1969), pp. 137-149.
- Maccà 1814, p. 74; Fasolo 1929, p. 76. ↩
- Muraro, Marton 1996, p. 262. ↩
- See a. o.: Cavaggioni, Zoppo 1989/1990, pp. 142-152. ↩
- Doglioni 2016, p. 107. ↩
- Mazzotti 1961, p. 175; Muraro, Marton 1996, pp. 262-263; Puppi, Battilotti 2006, p. 258; Robuschi, In: Puppi et al. 2008, p. 56; Trevisan, Puppi 2012, p. 67; Doglioni 2016, p. 104. ↩
- Palladio 1738, p. 50, plate 39; original text: I DISEGNI DELLE CASE DI VILLA DI ALCVNI Gentil’huomini di Terra Ferma. D VN luogo del Vicentino detto il FINALE, è la seguente fabrica del Signor Biagio Sarraceno, see: Palladio 1570, Book II, chapter XV, p. 56. ↩
- Zorzi 1969-1, p. 72; Cevese 1973, p. 63. ↩
- Bertotti Scamozzi 1776-1783, vol. II, p. 34, plates XXIII-XXV; Magrini 1845-1, pp. 75, 241; Magrini 1851, p. 67; Burger 1909, p. 49; Puppi 1973, vol. II, p. 258; Wundram, Pape 2004, p. 54; Puppi, Battilotti 2006, p. 258; Trevisan, Puppi 2012, p. 68; Beltramini, Romano 2020, p. 57. ↩
- Muttoni 1740-1760, vol. I, p. 29, plates XXIII-XXV; Bertotti Scamozzi 1776-1783, vol. II, p. 34. ↩
- Robuschi, In: Puppi et al. 2008, p. 58; Trevisan, Puppi 2012, p. 68; Beltramini, Romano 2020, p. 57. ↩
- Alfinale con decima in detto luogo (Biblioteca Bertoliana, Vicenza, Archivio privato Saraceno, Catalogo delle scritture, vol. I, no. 812), cited by: Puppi, Battilotti 2006, p. 259; see also: Puppi 1973, vol. II, p. 258; Wundram, Pape 2004, p. 54; Trevisan, Puppi 2012, p. 68. ↩
- casa e cortivo in Alfinale (Biblioteca Bertoliana, Vicenza, Archivio privato Saraceno, Catalogo delle scritture, vol. II, no. 1117), cited by: Puppi 1973, vol. II, p. 259; Puppi, Battilotti 2006, p. 259. ↩
- Cf. Magrini 1845-2, pp. 52-53; Pane 1960, pp. 62-64. ↩
- Ivanoff 1967, p. 165; Biegański 1968, p. 23; Wundram, Pape 2004, p. 55; Trevisan, Puppi 2012, p. 68. ↩
- Compared by: Puppi, Battilotti 2006, p. 258. ↩
- Compared by: Puppi, Battilotti 2006, p. 259. ↩
- Bertotti Scamozzi 1776-1783, plate XXV. ↩
- Biegański 1965, p. 29; Wittkower 1966, p. 21; Zorzi 1969-2, p. 145; Zocconi 1972, pp. 190-192. ↩
- Puppi, Battilotti 2006, p. 258. ↩
- Bertotti Scamozzi claimed: Il corpo principale di questa Fabbrica è stato eretto, see: Bertotti Scamozzi 1776-1783, p. 34. This opinion was repeated unquestioningly by Roberto Pane, cf. Pane 1960, p. 63. ↩
- Trevisan, Puppi 2012, p. 74. ↩
- Trevisan, Puppi 2012, p. 74; Beltramini, Romano 2020, p. 57. This part of the barchessa was ignored by Bertotti Scamozzi in his description from the 1780s: ma vi mancano le adiacenze per render compiuta l’invenzion del Palladio, cf. Bertotti Scamozzi 1776-1783, p. 34. ↩
- Kubelik 1979, pp. 180-181; Beltramini, Romano 2020, p. 57. ↩