Golden Proportions in a Great House: Palladio’s Villa Emo

  • Rachel Fletcher


Palladio created two distinct versions of Villa Emo at Fanzolo, the plan published in I quattro libri and the constructed villa that survives to this day. In both, harmony appears mathematically in the dimensions. The published plan is measured in Vicentine feet and is comprised of whole number measures that have been identified as among the terms of musical harmonies. Meanwhile, a geometric analysis based on a 1972 survey of the constructed Villa Emo reveals a plan of the central block that is not perfectly square, but proportioned to a circle that inscribes two smaller squares. Subsequent room dimensions and passageways follow in golden mean progression. The placement of doors and fireplaces derives from a regular pentagon whose base is drawn on the front edge of the portico. While proportions derived from other geometric shapes are also present, the golden mean also appears to dominate the front elevation.


Golden Section Golden Ratio Central Block Dine Room Regular Pentagon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author wishes to thank Count Leonardo Marco Emo Capodilista and Caroline Emo who generously opened the doors of Villa Emo and shared their family history. The original article has been revised to include new information about the villa and family genealogy and to recognize and address challenges to the author’s premise made by Lionel March in “Palladio ’s Villa Emo: The Golden Proportion Hypothesis Rebutted” (March 2001). Alexander Skillman, assisted by Samuel B. Seigle, reviewed and contributed to the etymologies of mathematical terms.


  1. Alberti, Leon Battista. 1988. On the Art of Building in Ten Books. Joseph Rykwert, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor, trans. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Beltramini, Guido. 2008. Andrea Palladio 1508-1580. Pp. 2-15 in Palladio, Guido Beltrammi and Howard Burns, eds. London: Royal Academy of Arts.Google Scholar
  3. Bertotti Scamozzi, Ottavio. 1976. The Buildings and the Designs of Andrea Palladio. Howard Burns, trans. Trento, Italy: Editrice La Roccia.Google Scholar
  4. Cook, Jeffrey. n.d. Orientation in Palladio’s Villas. Unpublished article. Tempe: Arizona State University, Department of Architecture.Google Scholar
  5. Euclid. 1956. The Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements. 3 vols. Sir Thomas L. Heath and Johan Ludvig Heiberg, trans. New York: Dover.Google Scholar
  6. Favero, Giampaolo Bordignon. 1972. The Villa Emo at Fanzolo. Douglas Lewis, trans. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Fletcher, Rachel. 2001. Palladio’s Villa Emo: The Golden Proportion Hypothesis Defended. Nexus Network Journal 3(2): 105–112.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 2013. Infinite Measure: Learning to Design in Geometric Harmony with Art, Architecture, and Nature. Staunton, VA: George F. Thompson Publishing.Google Scholar
  9. Fondazione Villa Emo Onlus. n.d. The Villa: Architecture. = 0203&lingua = EN (accessed 26 November 2013).
  10. Frings, Marcus. 2002. The Golden Section in Architectural Theory. Nexus Network Journal 4, 1 (February 2002): 9-32.Google Scholar
  11. Hambidge, Jay. 1967. The Elements of Dynamic Symmetry (1926). New York: Dover.Google Scholar
  12. Heath. 1981. A History of Greek Mathematics (1921). 2 vols. New York: Dover.Google Scholar
  13. Iamblichus. 1986. Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras, or Pythagoric Life (1818). Thomas Taylor, trans. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.Google Scholar
  14. Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret). 1980. Modulor I and II (1948, 1955). Peter de Francia and Anna Bostock, trans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. March, Lionel. 2001. Palladio’s Villa Emo: The Golden Proportion Hypothesis Rebutted. Nexus Network Journal 3, 2: 85-104.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Palladio, Andrea. 1570. I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura. Venice: Appresso Dominico de’ Franceschi.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 1997. The Four Books on Architecture. Robert Tavernor and Richard Schofield, trans. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Plato. 1945. The Republic of Plato. Frances Macdonald Cornford, trans. London, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 1948. Plato’s Cosmolology: The Timaeus of Plato. Frances Macdonald Cornford, trans., with running commentary. London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  20. Schwaller de Lubicz, R. A. 1998. The Temple of Man: Apet of the South at Luxor. Vol. 1. Deborah Lawlor and Robert Lawlor, trans. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions..Google Scholar
  21. Sharp, John. 2002. Spirals and the Golden Section. Nexus Network Journal 4, 1: 59-82.CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  22. Vitruvius. 1960. The Ten Books on Architecture. Morris Hickey Morgan, trans. New York: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
  23. ———. 1999. Ten Books on Architecture. Ingrid D. Rowland and Thomas Noble Howe, eds. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Wittkower, Rudolf, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (1949). New York: W. W. Norton, 1971.Google Scholar
  25. Zocconi. Mario and Andrzej Pereswet-Soltan. 1977. Villa Emo di Fanzolo. Vol. 1. of Rilievi delle fabbriche di Andrea Palladio. Vicenza: Centro Internazionale di studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York School of Interior DesignNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations