The Italianate style of architecture was a distinct 19th-century phase
in the history of Classical architecture.
In the Italianate style, the models and architectural vocabulary of
Renaissance architecture, which had served as
inspiration for both
Palladianism and Neoclassicism, were synthesised
with picturesque aesthetics. The style of architecture that was thus
created, though also characterised as "Neo-Renaissance", was
essentially of its own time. "The backward look transforms its
Siegfried Giedion wrote of historicist architectural
styles; "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 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. The Italianate style was
further developed and popularised by the architect Sir Charles Barry
in the 1830s. Barry's Italianate style (occasionally termed
"Barryesque") drew heavily for its motifs on the buildings of the
Italian Renaissance, though sometimes at odds with Nash's semi-rustic
The style was not confined to England and was employed in varying
forms, long after its decline in popularity in Britain, throughout
Northern Europe and the British Empire. From the late 1840s to 1890 it
achieved huge popularity in the United States, where it was
promoted by the architect Alexander Jackson Davis.
2 Interior decoration
3 By region
3.1 England and Wales
3.3 United States
3.3.1 East Coast
3.3.2 Other U.S. regions
3.5 New Zealand
4 Image galleries
4.1 Great Britain
4.2 United States
Australia and New Zealand
5 See also
7 External links
Key visual components of this style include:
Low-pitched or flat roofs; roof is frequently hipped
Projecting eaves supported by corbels
Imposing cornice structures
Pedimented windows and doors
Arch-headed, pedimented or Serlian windows with pronounced architraves
Tall first floor windows suggesting a piano nobile
Angled bay windows
Attics with a row of awning windows between the eave brackets
Belvedere or machicolated signorial towers
Balconies with wrought-iron railings, or
Balustrades concealing the roof-scape
About 15% of Italianate houses in the
United States include a tower
Government House, Melbourne. The Hall decorated in 19th-century
In interior decoration there were direct parallels to "Italianate"
architecture with free re-combinations of decorative features drawn
from Italian 16th-century architecture and objects, which were applied
to purely 19th century forms. Wardrobes and dressers could be dressed
in Italianate detailing as well as row houses.[according to whom?]
The spur to such commercial designs can be found in the "free
Renaissance" style that was espoused by Charles Eastlake. In 1868 he
published Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery and other
Details which was very influential in Britain and later in the United
States, where the book was published in 1872. Although the archaeology
of Mr. Eastlake's volume was always careful, most of the principles in
it are beyond question, and can be generally stated in a few words.
The Italianate style would have no carving or molding or other
ornament glued on—such work must be done in the solid; no mitered
joints, but joints made at the right angle, and secured by mortise,
tenon and pin; woods in their native colour, and unvarnished, or else
painted in flat colour, with a contrasting line and a stenciled
ornament at the angles; unconcealed construction everywhere, and
purposes plainly proclaimed; and with veneering, round corners and all
curves weakening the grain of the wood being absolutely forbidden. The
furniture that he thus proposed has straight, strong, squarely cut
members equal to their intention. Its ornament is painted panels,
porcelain plaques and tiles, metal trimmings, and conventionalized
carvings in sunk relief, a part of the construction entering into the
ornament, also in the shape of narrow striated strips of wood
radiating in opposite lines, after a fashion not altogether unknown in
the time of Henry III. It has the honesty and solidity, but not the
attraction, of the Medieval; and if it is stiff and somewhat heavy,
and fails entirely to please, it has yet a wholesome and healthy
Today "Italianate" furnishings are often called "Eastlake" by American
collectors and dealers, but contemporary terms ranged imaginatively,
and included "Neo-Grec".
England and Wales
Cliveden: Charles Barry's Italianate,
Neo-Renaissance mansion with
"confident allusions to the wealth of Italian merchant princes."
Villa Emo by Palladio,1559. The great Italian villas were often a
starting point for the buildings of the 19th-century Italianate style.
A late intimation of 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, 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
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
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
Lazio and the
Veneto or as he put it: "...the charming
character of the irregular villas of Italy." His most defining
work in this style was the large
Neo-Renaissance mansion Cliveden
(illustrated above). Although it has been claimed that one third of
early Victorian country houses in England used classical styles,
mostly Italianate, by 1855 the style was falling from favour and
Cliveden came to be regarded as "a declining essay in a declining
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
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. 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 free standing mansion which was to be the
inspiration for countless Italianate villas throughout the British
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" by 1855 the most
favoured style of an
English country house
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
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 Medicis. 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 the construction of mansions and civil building throughout
the country. The cities of
Sidon were especially built
in the Italianate style. The influence of these buildings, such as
the ones in Deir el Qamar, influenced building in Lebanon for many
centuries and continues to the present time. For example, streets like
Rue Gouraud continues to have numerous, historic houses with
Mansion and Gardens in Greensboro, North Carolina.
See also: Mediterranean Revival architecture
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
Italianate architecture in the United States, constructed
1844 as the residence of North Carolina Governor John Motley
Morehead. 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. Davis' 1854 Litchfield
Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Prospect Park, Brooklyn is a splendid example of the style.
It was initially referred to as the "Italian Villa" or "Tuscan Villa"
Richard Upjohn used the style extensively, beginning in
1845 with the Edward King House. Other leading practitioners of the
John Notman and Henry Austin. Notman designed
"Riverside" in 1837, the first "Italian Villa" style house in
Burlington, New Jersey
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
Victorian architecture dating from the mid-to-late 19th
This architectural style became more popular than
Greek Revival by the
beginning of the Civil War. 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 1849 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. 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
Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, 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 neighboring cities of Newport and
Covington, Kentucky also contain an impressive collection of
The Garden District of
New Orleans features examples of the Italianate
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
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.
United States Lighthouse Board through the work of
Orlando M. Poe
Orlando M. Poe produced a number of Italianate lighthouses and
associated structures, chief among them being the Grosse Point Light
in Evanston, Illinois.
See also: Australian residential architectural styles
Government House, Melbourne
Government House, Melbourne completed in 1876.
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
Palladian and Venetian architecture." Cream-colored,
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
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-cochere designed as a single storey prostyle portico.
Many examples of this style are evident around the government district
of Melbourne, notably the "Old Treasury" Building (1858) and the fine
range of state and federal government offices facing the gardens in
Treasury Place. No.2
Treasury Gardens (1874), in particular would
not be out of place in Whitehall or
Belgravia in London. 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
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
British Empire long after it had ceased to be fashionable in
Britain itself. The
Albury railway station
Albury railway station in New South Wales,
completed in 1881, is an example of this further evolution of the
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
Westoe Farm House in Rangitikei 1874, as well as rendered brick at
"The Pah"1880, Auckland.
On a more domestic scale, the suburbs of cities like
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.
The former headquarters of the
Royal Southern Yacht Club
Royal Southern Yacht Club in
Southampton, England, built in 1846
Italianate Victorian Painted Lady in San Francisco, California
Series of Italianate tenements in Over-The-Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Boardman–Mitchell House Located in Stapleton, Staten Island, NY.
The Bidwell Mansion, built in 1865, Chico, California
Robert Patrick Fitzgerald House, Milwaukee, 1876: potpourri of
Annefield, Charlotte County, Virginia, built in 1858.
Mansion in Oneida, New York, built in 1862
The Posey County Courthouse in Mount Vernon, Indiana, completed in
Australia and New Zealand
Railway station of Albury, New South Wales,
Eynesbury House, Adelaide, South Australia
Myrnong Hall, Acland Street, St Kilda, Victoria, Melbourne
Fitzroy Street in the suburb of
St Kilda, Victoria
St Kilda, Victoria has a high
concentration of Italianate buildings
Old Government Buildings, Wellington
Antrim House, Wellington
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^ Siegfried Giedion, Space, Time and Architecture 1941 etc.
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Cronkhill The house is still more a picturesque
cottage than great Italian Villa or Palazzo
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