“His influence on the language of building is comparable to the lasting impact that William Shakespeare has had on the...

Impressionistic, personal walking tour of a handful of Andrea Palladio's villas, during which Rybczynski reins in his obvious excitement and delight in the work, creating an irresistible tension.

Rybczynski (The Look of Architecture, 2001, etc.) calls Palladio “the most influential architect in history,” and it’s hard to quarrel. From country seats in Kent to Tidewater plantation houses in Virginia to small-town banks and courthouses, Palladio's mark is everywhere. He might be considered the father of domestic architecture, bringing the language of temples and palaces to the home front. Seventeen of his villas survive, dotting the Veneto plain behind Venice. Rybczynski visits a number of them here, pointing out their nobility and orderliness, the harmonious dimensions, as if the reader were standing by his side. The writing is enticing: What Rybczynski describes feels like real news, knowledge that will make a difference. Yet the air is casual, belying his sharp eye—he's not above suggesting elements that don't work for him—as he notes the softening aspects of a recessed loggia and the warmth of plaster on the severe geometry of a villa front, or the startlingly novel effect of parallax achieved by curving the loggia, how Palladio's work is “both sophisticated and rustic, genteel and rude, cosmopolitan and vernacular.” As Rybczynski walks about Villa Rotunda's circle in a square or through the wonderful freestanding portico with Ionic columns of Villa Chiericati, better still the double-decker portico of Villa Cornaro, he traces the evolution of Palladio's style, his influences, how he took advantage of Venetian glassmaking to fill his villas with light, as well as stories of the original owners of the villas: information all carefully marshaled and orchestrated to convey a sense of drama.

“His influence on the language of building is comparable to the lasting impact that William Shakespeare has had on the English language.” No small tribute—nor overstatement. (Line drawings throughout)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7432-0586-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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