Police forensic experts, historians of the Palladio museum and technicians of the Superintendence of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the provinces of Verona, Rovigo and Vicenza, at the end of a lengthy investigation, put an end to the 500 years long disputes about what the most famous architect of all time looked like.
The mystery concerning Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) came about because there is no official portrait of him – diverging from the editorial custom of the time he did not insert one in his treatise, “The Four Books on Architecture.” To fill that gap, in the eighteenth century, countless (very different) portraits of the architect have been proposed. Twelve portraits deemed of Palladio that were found scattered across two continents, were analyzed. The Palladio museum historians researched archives and libraries, the Superintendence technicians investigated the material aspects of the paintings in their restoration laboratory in Verona, while the Forensic Police experts compared the images of all the portraits through aging and physiognomic comparison techniques. In the end the team got two positive hits and proclaimed that a portrait, that is part of a private collection in Moscow, and one that was bought at an antiques shop in New Jersey depict the real face of Palladio.
The “Andrea Palladio. The mystery of the face” exhibition, designed by Alessandro Scandurra and curated by Guido Beltramini, that will be on view until June 18 at the Palladio Museum in Vicenza, effectively creates the atmosphere of a detective story – next to each painting visitors find light tables where the “evidences” of the investigation are presented: X-rays of the paintings, stratigraphic sections which highlight the succession of pictorial films, old photographs, and documents.
Ilona Catani Scarlett