BOYLE, Richard (Lord Burlington)

(1695-1753)
   Richard Boyle, Third Earl of Burlington, was one of the English "gentlemen architects" of the 18th century who worked in the Neo-Classical style. This era is characterized by a widespread yet serious openness to all of the arts and sciences, hence its designation as the "Age of Enlightenment." Fields of inquiry included the new "social" sciences, alongside the traditional sciences and arts, while the ideals of Ancient Rome were taken as models. Therefore, it became popular for wealthy students to complete their university education with a grand tour of Europe, thereby establishing the origins of the modern tourist industry. Richard Boyle was one of these "tourists" who went on to become an amateur architect. He argued that the prevailing Rococo style was too decadent and immoral and instead advocated a return to classical ideals to bring architecture back to its "pure" form.
   Boyle went to Italy to study the Renaissance work of Andrea Palladio, which epitomizes this classical style. Palladio was famous for his villas constructed in the region around Venice, and it was this domestic type that was the model for Chiswick House, designed in the 1720s by Richard Boyle as his private home in West London. English country homes were very popular among wealthy clients, who used these villas to display the collections of art they acquired while traveling. Thus, Chiswick House recalls in its overall design Palladio's Villa Rotonda, also called the Villa Belvedere, which was built in the 1560s outside the town of Vicenza in the Veneto. While the Villa Belvedere is a square building with a columned portico on each of the four sides, Chiswick House has one main entrance portico and thus a more axially directed interior. Additional rows of stairs lead up on either side of the portico, which is designed with fluted, Corinthian columns that support a triangular pediment. The rectangular windows and octagonal dome update Palladio's Renaissance structure while the interior, designed by William Kent, is more ornate than Palladio's building. Kent also designed around the villa a picturesque English garden that is characterized by a less formal and more relaxed setting than the popular French gardens, such as those at Versailles and Rococo palaces. In the second half of the 18th century, Boyle's version of Neo-Classicism became very popular across Europe, and it ultimately supplanted the Rococo style to endure for the next two centuries.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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