Italianate architecture

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Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, England, built between 1845 and 1851. It exhibits three typical Italianate features: a prominently bracketed cornice, towers based on Italian campanili and belvederes, and adjoining arched windows. Osborne-iow-3Ja10-10914.jpg
Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, England, built between 1845 and 1851. It exhibits three typical Italianate features: a prominently bracketed cornice, towers based on Italian campanili and belvederes, and adjoining arched windows.

The Italianate style was a distinct 19th-century phase in the history of Classical architecture. Like Palladianism and Neoclassicism, the Italianate style combined its inspiration from the models and architectural vocabulary of 16th-century Italian Renaissance architecture with picturesque aesthetics. The resulting style of architecture was essentially of its own time. "The backward look transforms its object," Siegfried Giedion wrote of historicist architectural styles; [2] "every spectator at every period—at every moment, indeed—inevitably transforms the past according to his own nature."


The Italianate style was first developed in Britain in about 1802 by John Nash, with the construction of Cronkhill in Shropshire. This small country house is generally accepted to be the first Italianate villa in England, from which is derived the Italianate architecture of the late Regency and early Victorian eras. [3] The Italianate style was further developed and popularised by the architect Sir Charles Barry in the 1830s. [4] Barry's Italianate style (occasionally termed "Barryesque") [1] drew heavily for its motifs on the buildings of the Italian Renaissance, though sometimes at odds with Nash's semi-rustic Italianate villas.

The style was employed in varying forms abroad long after its decline in popularity in Britain. For example, from the late 1840s to 1890, it achieved huge popularity in the United States, [5] where it was promoted by the architect Alexander Jackson Davis.


Key visual components of this style include: [6]

By region

England and Wales

Cronkhill, designed by John Nash, the earliest Italianate villa in England Cronkhill Villa Cropped.jpg
Cronkhill, designed by John Nash, the earliest Italianate villa in England
Villa Emo by Palladio, 1559. The great Italian villas were often a starting point for the buildings of the 19th-century Italianate style. Villa Emo in Fanzolo.jpg
Villa Emo by Palladio, 1559. The great Italian villas were often a starting point for the buildings of the 19th-century Italianate style.
Cliveden: Charles Barry's Italianate, Neo-Renaissance mansion with "confident allusions to the wealth of Italian merchant princes." Cliveden, June 2005.JPG
Cliveden: Charles Barry's Italianate, Neo-Renaissance mansion with "confident allusions to the wealth of Italian merchant princes."

A late intimation of John Nash's development of the Italianate style was his 1805 design of Sandridge Park at Stoke Gabriel in Devon. Commissioned by the dowager Lady Ashburton as a country retreat, this small country house clearly shows the transition between the picturesque of William Gilpin and Nash's yet to be fully evolved Italianism. While this house can still be described as Regency, its informal asymmetrical plan together with its loggias and balconies of both stone and wrought iron; tower and low pitched roof clearly are very similar to the fully Italianate design of Cronkhill, [10] the house generally considered to be the first example of the Italianate style in Britain.

Later examples of the Italianate style in England tend to take the form of Palladian-style building often enhanced by a belvedere tower complete with Renaissance-type balustrading at the roof level. This is generally a more stylistic interpretation of what architects and patrons imagined to be the case in Italy, and utilises more obviously the Italian Renaissance motifs than those earlier examples of the Italianate style by Nash.

Sir Charles Barry, most notable for his works on the Tudor and Gothic styles at the Houses of Parliament in London, was a great promoter of the style. Unlike Nash, he found his inspiration in Italy itself. Barry drew heavily on the designs of the original Renaissance villas of Rome, the Lazio and the Veneto or as he put it: "...the charming character of the irregular villas of Italy." [11] His most defining work in this style was the large Neo-Renaissance mansion Cliveden, while the Reform Club 1837–41 in Pall Mall represents a convincingly authentic pastiche of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, albeit in a 'Grecian' Ionic order in place of Michelangelo's original Corinthian order. Although it has been claimed that one-third of early Victorian country houses in England used classical styles, mostly Italianate, [12] by 1855 the style was falling from favour and Cliveden came to be regarded as "a declining essay in a declining fashion." [13]

Anthony Salvin occasionally designed in the Italianate style, especially in Wales, at Hafod House, Carmarthenshire, and Penoyre House, Powys, described by Mark Girouard as "Salvin's most ambitious classical house." [14]

Thomas Cubitt, a London building contractor, incorporated simple classical lines of the Italianate style as defined by Sir Charles Barry into many of his London terraces. [4] Cubitt designed Osborne House under the direction of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and it is Cubitt's reworking of his two-dimensional street architecture into this freestanding mansion [4] which was to be the inspiration for countless Italianate villas throughout the British Empire.

Following the completion of Osborne House in 1851, the style became a popular choice of design for the small mansions built by the new and wealthy industrialists of the era. These were mostly built in cities surrounded by large but not extensive gardens, often laid out in a terrace Tuscan style as well. On occasions very similar, if not identical, designs to these Italianate villas would be topped by mansard roofs, and then termed chateauesque. However, "after a modest spate of Italianate villas, and French chateaux" [15] by 1855 the most favoured style of an English country house was Gothic, Tudor, or Elizabethan. The Italianate style came to the small town of Newton Abbot and the village of Starcross in Devon, with Isambard Brunel's atmospheric railway pumping houses. The style was later used by Humphrey Abberley and Joseph Rowell, who designed a large number of houses, with the new railway station as the focal point, for Lord Courtenay, who saw the potential of the railway age.

An example that is not very well known, but a clear example of Italianate architecture, is St. Christopher's Anglican church in Hinchley Wood, Surrey, particularly given the design of its bell tower. [16]

Portmeirion in Gwynedd, North Wales, is an architectural fantasy designed in a southern Italian Baroque style and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in a loose style of an Italian village. It is now owned by a charitable trust. Williams-Ellis incorporated fragments of demolished buildings, including works by a number of other architects. Portmeirion's architectural bricolage and deliberately fanciful nostalgia have been noted as an influence on the development of postmodernism in architecture in the late 20th century.


Thomson's Italian Villa, Craig Ailey Craig Ailey (Italian Villa), Cove, SE entrance.jpg
Thomson's Italian Villa, Craig Ailey

The Italianate revival was comparatively less prevalent in Scottish architecture,[ citation needed ] examples include some of the early work of Alexander Thomson ("Greek" Thomson) and buildings such as the west side of George Square.


The Italian, specifically Tuscan, influence on architecture in Lebanon dates back to the Renaissance when Fakhreddine, the first Lebanese ruler who truly unified Mount Lebanon with its Mediterranean coast, executed an ambitious plan to develop his country.

When the Ottomans exiled Fakhreddine to Tuscany in 1613, he entered an alliance with the Medici. Upon his return to Lebanon in 1618, he began modernising Lebanon. He developed a silk industry, upgraded olive oil production, and brought with him numerous Italian engineers who began building mansions and civil buildings[ clarification needed ] throughout the country. [17] The cities of Beirut and Sidon were especially built in the Italianate style. [18] The influence of these buildings, such as those in Deir el Qamar, influenced building in Lebanon for many centuries and continues to the present time. For example, streets like Rue Gouraud continue to have numerous, historic houses with Italianate influence. [19]

United States

Blandwood Mansion and Gardens in Greensboro, North Carolina BlandwoodMansion.jpg
Blandwood Mansion and Gardens in Greensboro, North Carolina

United States East Coast

The Italianate style was popularized in the United States by Alexander Jackson Davis in the 1840s as an alternative to Gothic or Greek Revival styles. Davis' design for Blandwood is the oldest surviving example of Italianate architecture in the United States, constructed in 1844 as the residence of North Carolina Governor John Motley Morehead. [20] [21] It is an early example of Italianate architecture, closer in ethos to the Italianate works of Nash than the more Renaissance-inspired designs of Barry. [21] Davis' 1854 Litchfield Villa in Prospect Park, Brooklyn is a splendid example of the style. It was initially referred to as the "Italian Villa" or "Tuscan Villa" style. [22] Richard Upjohn used the style extensively, beginning in 1845 with the Edward King House. Other leading practitioners of the style were John Notman and Henry Austin. [23] Notman designed "Riverside" in 1837, the first "Italian Villa" style house in Burlington, New Jersey (now destroyed).

Italianate was reinterpreted to become an indigenous style. It is distinctive by its pronounced exaggeration of many Italian Renaissance characteristics: emphatic eaves supported by corbels, low-pitched roofs barely discernible from the ground, or even flat roofs with a wide projection. A tower is often incorporated hinting at the Italian belvedere or even campanile tower. Motifs drawn from the Italianate style were incorporated into the commercial builders' repertoire and appear in Victorian architecture dating from the mid-to-late 19th century.

This architectural style became more popular than Greek Revival by the beginning of the Civil War. [24] Its popularity was due to being suitable for many different building materials and budgets, as well as the development of cast-iron and press-metal technology making the production more efficient of decorative elements such as brackets and cornices. However, the style was superseded in popularity in the late 1870s by the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles.

Other U.S. regions

The Italianate 1883 John Muir Mansion in Martinez, California John Muir NHS.jpg
The Italianate 1883 John Muir Mansion in Martinez, California

The popularity of Italianate architecture in the time period following 1845 can be seen in Cincinnati, Ohio, the United States' first boomtown west of the Appalachian Mountains. [25] This city, which grew along with the traffic on the Ohio River, features arguably the largest single collection of Italianate buildings in the United States in its Over-the-Rhine neighbourhood, built primarily by German-American immigrants that lived in the densely populated area. In recent years, increased attention has been called to the preservation of this impressive collection, with large-scale renovation efforts beginning to repair urban blight. Cincinnati's neighbouring cities of Newport and Covington, Kentucky also contain an impressive collection of Italianate architecture.

The Garden District of New Orleans features examples of the Italianate style, including: [26]

  • 1331 First Street, designed by Samuel Jamison,
  • the Van Benthuysen-Elms Mansion at 3029 St. Charles Avenue, and
  • 2805 Carondelet Street (technically located a block outside the Garden District).

In California, the earliest Victorian residences were wooden versions of the Italianate style, such as the James Lick Mansion, John Muir Mansion, and Bidwell Mansion, before later Stick-Eastlake and Queen Anne styles superseded. Many, nicknamed Painted Ladies , remain and are celebrated in San Francisco. A late example in masonry is the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Los Angeles.

Additionally, the United States Lighthouse Board, through the work of Colonel Orlando M. Poe, produced a number of Italianate lighthouses and associated structures, chief among them being the Grosse Point Light in Evanston, Illinois. [27]


Government House, Melbourne, completed in 1876 GovernmentHouseMelbourne1 gobeirne.jpg
Government House, Melbourne, completed in 1876
The Institute Building at the University of Sydney in Darlington, Sydney SydneyUniversity InstituteBuilding DarlingtonCentre.jpg
The Institute Building at the University of Sydney in Darlington, Sydney

The Italianate style was immensely popular in Australia as a domestic style influencing the rapidly expanding suburbs of the 1870–1880s and providing rows of neat villas with low-pitched roofs, bay windows, tall windows and classical cornices. The architect William Wardell designed Government House in Melbourne—the official residence of the governor of Victoria—as an example of his "newly discovered love for Italianate, Palladian and Venetian architecture." [28] Cream-colored, with many Palladian features, it would not be out of place among the unified streets and squares in Thomas Cubitt's Belgravia, London, except for its machicolated signorial tower that Wardell crowned with a belvedere.

The hipped roof is concealed by a balustraded parapet. The principal block is flanked by two lower asymmetrical secondary wings that contribute picturesque massing, best appreciated from an angled view. The larger of these is divided from the principal block by the belvedere tower. The smaller, the ballroom block, is entered through a columned porte-cochère designed as a single storey prostyle portico.

Many examples of this style are evident around Sydney and Melbourne, notably the Old Treasury Building (1858), Leichhardt Town Hall (1888), Glebe Town Hall (1879) and the fine range of state and federal government offices facing the gardens in Treasury Place. No.2 Treasury Gardens (1874). [29] This dignified, but not overly exuberant style for civil service offices contrasted with the grand and more formal statements of the classical styles used for Parliament buildings. The acceptance of the Italianate style for government offices was sustained well into the 20th century when, in 1912, John Smith Murdoch designed the Commonwealth Office Buildings as a sympathetic addition to this precinct to form a stylistically unified terrace overlooking the gardens.

The Italianate style of architecture continued to be built in outposts of the British Empire long after it had ceased to be fashionable in Britain itself. The Albury railway station in regional New South Wales, completed in 1881, is an example of this further evolution of the style.

New Zealand

As in Australia, the use of Italianate for public service offices took hold but using local materials like timber to create the illusion of stone. At the time it was built in 1856, the official residence of the Colonial Governor in Auckland was criticized for the dishonesty of making wood look like stone. The 1875 Old Government Buildings, Wellington are entirely constructed with local kauri timber, which has excellent properties for construction. (Auckland developed later and preferred Gothic detailing.) As in the United States, the timber construction common in New Zealand allowed this popular style to be rendered in domestic buildings, such as Antrim House in Wellington, and Westoe Farm House in Rangitikei [30] (1874), as well as rendered brick at "The Pah" in Auckland (1880).

On a more domestic scale, the suburbs of cities like Dunedin and Wellington spread out with modest but handsome suburban villas with Italianate details, such as low-pitched roofs, tall windows, corner quoins, and stone detailing, all rendered in wood. A good example is the birthplace of the writer Katherine Mansfield.

Image galleries

Great Britain

United States

Australia and New Zealand

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Nash (architect)</span> British architect (1752–1835)

John Nash was one of the foremost British architects of the Georgian and Regency eras, during which he was responsible for the design, in the neoclassical and picturesque styles, of many important areas of London. His designs were financed by the Prince Regent and by the era's most successful property developer, James Burton. Nash also collaborated extensively with Burton's son, Decimus Burton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Barry</span> British architect

Sir Charles BarryFRS RA was a British architect, best known for his role in the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster in London during the mid-19th century, but also responsible for numerous other buildings and gardens. He is known for his major contribution to the use of Italianate architecture in Britain, especially the use of the Palazzo as basis for the design of country houses, city mansions and public buildings. He also developed the Italian Renaissance garden style for the many gardens he designed around country houses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Villa</span> Type of house

A villa is a type of house that was originally an ancient Roman upper class country house. Since its origins in the Roman villa, the idea and function of a villa have evolved considerably. After the fall of the Roman Republic, villas became small farming compounds, which were increasingly fortified in Late Antiquity, sometimes transferred to the Church for reuse as a monastery. Then they gradually re-evolved through the Middle Ages into elegant upper-class country homes. In the early modern period, any comfortable detached house with a garden near a city or town was likely to be described as a villa; most survivals have now been engulfed by suburbia. In modern parlance, "villa" can refer to various types and sizes of residences, ranging from the suburban semi-detached double villa to, in some countries, especially around the Mediterranean, residences of above average size in the countryside.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Victorian architecture</span> Series of architectural revival styles

Victorian architecture is a series of architectural revival styles in the mid-to-late 19th century. Victorian refers to the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), called the Victorian era, during which period the styles known as Victorian were used in construction. However, many elements of what is typically termed "Victorian" architecture did not become popular until later in Victoria's reign, roughly from 1850 and later. The styles often included interpretations and eclectic revivals of historic styles (see Historicism). The name represents the British and French custom of naming architectural styles for a reigning monarch. Within this naming and classification scheme, it followed Georgian architecture and later Regency architecture and was succeeded by Edwardian architecture.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Queen Anne style architecture</span> Architectural style

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mansion</span> Large and expensive dwelling house

A mansion is a large dwelling house. The word itself derives through Old French from the Latin word mansio "dwelling", an abstract noun derived from the verb manere "to dwell". The English word manse originally defined a property large enough for the parish priest to maintain himself, but a mansion is no longer self-sustaining in this way. Manor comes from the same root—territorial holdings granted to a lord who would "remain" there.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Palladian architecture</span> Style of architecture derived from the Venetian Andrea Palladio

Palladian architecture is a European architectural style derived from the work of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (1508–1580). What is today recognised as Palladian architecture evolved from his concepts of symmetry, perspective and the principles of formal classical architecture from ancient Greek and Roman traditions. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Palladio's interpretation of this classical architecture developed into the style known as Palladianism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">West Wycombe Park</span> Country house in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England

West Wycombe Park is a country house built between 1740 and 1800 near the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England. It was conceived as a pleasure palace for the 18th-century libertine and dilettante Sir Francis Dashwood, 2nd Baronet. The house is a long rectangle with four façades that are columned and pedimented, three theatrically so. The house encapsulates the entire progression of British 18th-century architecture from early idiosyncratic Palladian to the Neoclassical, although anomalies in its design make it architecturally unique. The mansion is set within an 18th-century landscaped park containing many small temples and follies, which act as satellites to the greater temple, the house.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tudor Revival architecture</span> Architectural style

Tudor Revival architecture, also known as mock Tudor in the UK, first manifested in domestic architecture in the United Kingdom in the latter half of the 19th century. Based on revival of aspects that were perceived as Tudor architecture, in reality it usually took the style of English vernacular architecture of the Middle Ages that had survived into the Tudor period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scottish baronial architecture</span> 19th-century architectural style

Scottish baronial or Scots baronial is an architectural style of 19th-century Gothic Revival which revived the forms and ornaments of historical architecture of Scotland in the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. Reminiscent of Scottish castles, buildings in the Scots baronial style are characterised by elaborate rooflines embellished with conical roofs, tourelles, and battlements with machicolations, often with an asymmetric plan. Popular during the fashion for Romanticism and the Picturesque, Scots baronial architecture was equivalent to the Jacobethan Revival of 19th-century England, and likewise revived the Late Gothic appearance of the fortified domestic architecture of the elites in the Late Middle Ages and the architecture of the Jacobean era.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Renaissance Revival architecture</span> Group of 19th-century architectural revival styles

Renaissance Revival architecture is a group of 19th-century architectural revival styles which were neither Greek Revival nor Gothic Revival but which instead drew inspiration from a wide range of classicizing Italian modes. Under the broad designation Renaissance architecture 19th-century architects and critics went beyond the architectural style which began in Florence and Central Italy in the early 15th century as an expression of Renaissance humanism; they also included styles that can be identified as Mannerist or Baroque. Self-applied style designations were rife in the mid- and later 19th century: "Neo-Renaissance" might be applied by contemporaries to structures that others called "Italianate", or when many French Baroque features are present.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cronkhill</span> Country house in Atcham, England

Cronkhill, Atcham, Shropshire, designed by John Nash, is "the earliest Italianate villa in England".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Australian residential architectural styles</span> Architectural styles

Australian residential architectural styles have evolved significantly over time, from the early days of structures made from relatively cheap and imported corrugated iron to more sophisticated styles borrowed from other countries, such as the California bungalow from the United States, the Georgian style from Europe and Northern America, and the Victorian style from the United Kingdom. A common feature of the Australian home is the use of fencing in front gardens, also common in both the United Kingdom and the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Buscot Park</span> Country house, gardens and estate near Faringdon, Oxfordshire, England

Buscot Park is a country house at Buscot near the town of Faringdon in Oxfordshire within the historic boundaries of Berkshire. It is a Grade II* listed building.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Summit Avenue (St. Paul)</span> Street in Minnesota, United States

Summit Avenue is a street in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States, known for being the longest avenue of Victorian homes in the country, having a number of historic houses, churches, synagogues, and schools. The street starts just west of downtown St. Paul and continues four and a half miles west to the Mississippi River where Saint Paul meets Minneapolis. Other cities have similar streets, such as Prairie Avenue in Chicago, Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, and Fifth Avenue in New York City. Summit Avenue is notable for having preserved its historic character and mix of buildings, as compared to these other examples. Historian Ernest R. Sandeen described Summit Avenue as "the best preserved example of the Victorian monumental residential boulevard."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Estate houses in Scotland</span>

Estate houses in Scotland or Scottish country houses, are large houses usually on landed estates in Scotland. They were built from the sixteenth century, after defensive castles began to be replaced by more comfortable residences for royalty, nobility and local lairds. The origins of Scottish estate houses are in aristocratic emulation of the extensive building and rebuilding of royal residences, beginning with Linlithgow, under the influence of Renaissance architecture. In the 1560s the unique Scottish style of the Scots baronial emerged, which combined features from medieval castles, tower houses, and peel towers with Renaissance plans, in houses designed primarily for residence rather than defence.

<i>DEstaville</i> House / Mansion in Victoria, Australia

d'Estaville, also spelled D'Estaville, is a large bluestone Italianate-style heritage-listed house located at 7 Barry Street in the Melbourne suburb of Kew, Victoria, Australia. Designed by architects Knight & Kerr for politician and long term Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir William Foster Stawell, d’Estaville was completed in 1859. d’Estaville is a fine and unusual example of the Italianate style, and the only residential work of Knight & Kerr, designers of the Victorian Parliament House.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Architecture of Wales</span>

Architecture of Wales is an overview of architecture in Wales from the medieval period to the present day, excluding castles and fortifications, ecclesiastical architecture and industrial architecture. It covers the history of domestic, commercial, and administrative architecture.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Penoyre House</span> Country house in Powys, Wales

Penoyre House, Battle, Powys, Wales is a nineteenth century country house. Designed by Anthony Salvin for Colonel John Lloyd Vaughan Watkins, it was built between 1846-8. In an Italianate style, it is described by Mark Girouard as "Salvin's most ambitious classical house". The enormous cost of the house almost bankrupted the family and it was sold only 3 years after Colonel Watkins's death. From 1947, the house was in institutional use, and was converted to apartments in the early twenty-first century. The building is Grade II* listed The gardens are listed Grade II on the Cadw/ICOMOS Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New World Queen Anne Revival architecture</span> Architectural style

In the New World, Queen Anne Revival was a historicist architectural style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was popular in the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries. In Australia, it is also called Federation architecture.


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