Delight in Disorder: Palladio, Boyle, and the Evolution of an Aesthetic

By Aaron Brown.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Robert Boyle’s adaptation of Andrea Palladio’s Villa Rotunda, or Villa Capra, is emblematic of an evolution in English aesthetics during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Boyle’s Chiswick House closely imitates many features of the Villa Capra, but it also consciously departs from the rigorous principles of symmetry that characterized its predecessor. The resulting adaptation included intentional irregularities and unbalanced elements that placed nature and artifice in tension with each other. While Palladio insisted that architectural beauty was informed by principles of symmetry, proportion, and classical order, Boyle believed that a natural “disorder” –less formal but still highly wrought—was aesthetically preferable. This belief takes material form not only in the design of Chiswick House but also in the developing theory of landscape gardening and even of poetic expression during the period. Examining the ways in which Boyle both imitates and departs from Palladio’s architectural practices enables one to understand a larger aesthetic movement in England that championed the combination of “natural” design with more classically “artificial” principles of construction.

Keywords: Palladian Architecture, English Landscape Gardening, Herrick’s Poetry, Boyle’s Chiswick House

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.39-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 6.194MB).

Aaron Brown

Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA

A student of architecture at Princeton University, I am interested in the principles and practices of design. Specifically, I am working on urban design and its cultural contexts.

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