Lord Burlington's villa

24th March 1995 at 00:00
Whatever the heavily classical connotations suggested by the Palladian revival, there is nothing fustian about the current tercentenary celebrations of the birth of Lord Burlington, architect, collector, patron and arbiter of taste.

His town architecture is successfully covered in a show at the RIBA Heinz Gallery (21 Portman Square, W1 until April 1) together with a self-guided Palladian walk in Mayfair, while the Royal Academy exhibition (until April 2) is as lucidly laid out and richly adorned as Burlington's still-surviving villa and garden at Chiswick, which is its central concern.

Any student can easily follow the development of this inspired aristocrat's ideas from their origins in Roman, Italian Renaissance and early 17th-century English models, - for the most part illustrated with drawings, prints and paintings collected, commissioned or inspired by him - to their realisation. But if further help is needed, the RA has a crystal-clear gallery guide, an invaluable teachers' pack and early morning gallery guides by arrangement (telephone 0171 494 5733).

At Chiswick House and garden (Burlington Lane, W4), both seminal in the creation of the 18th-century country house and its landscaped setting, students can compare the original designs and contemporary illustrations in the RA exhibition with what exists today, and also examine the restoration programme recorded in the display, Conservation and Recreation. Here, too, there is an excellent guide and one of the most stimulating and substantial teachers' handbooks (English Heritage Pounds 3.95) to be found anywhere.

To round up this celebration in a suitably splendid way there is John Harris's accompanying book and RA catalogue (The Palladian Revival: Lord Burlington, His Villa and Garden at Chiswick Pounds 19.95 Yale University Press). Combining rigorous scholarship with passionate enthusiasm and adding some very telling photographs to illustrations of all the visual material in the exhibition, it is without doubt the definitive study.

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