Introduction

Villa Forni Cerato is a Venetian villa located in Montecchio Precalcino, in the province of Vicenza, whose construction is attributed to the architect Andrea Palladio in about 1565. The building has been listed since 1996 in the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, the conservation of this architectural asset is at risk because it is in a state of neglect. Villa Forni Cerato, as already the Cogollo house, represents an exemplary case of Palladian intervention on a pre-existing building, transformed even with modest means into a significant monumental episode. Like the home of the notary Cogollo, this villa is also the only one designed by Palladio for a rich but not noble owner: Girolamo Forni, a well-to-do wood merchant (supplier of several Palladio shipyards, starting with the Chiericati building) , a friend of artists such as Vittoria and a painter himself, a collector of antiquities and a member of the Vicenza Olympic Academy. It is possible that the dry minimalism of this calibrated building is in harmony with the owner’s bourgeois social status. Just the abstract language of villa Forni has generated doubts on the actual Palladian paternity, as well as the extremely simple planimetry, devoid of the usual relations between the size of the rooms, or the presence of some proportional disharmony between the parts of the building. In reality, the villa is the result of the renovation of the existing old house, and if ever the point of view must be reversed, capturing the Palladian intelligence in transforming conditioning constraints into expressive opportunities. The clear design of the serliana makes this text, with the columns brought back to clear stereometric columns according to the limited width of the loggia (probably sized on the existing salon) or the frieze reduced to a simple band under the cornice. The view of the loggia, moreover, is conceptually identical to that of the Cogollo house, connecting once more these two singular buildings. Almost completely stripped of the rich sculptural decoration, partly documented work by Alessandro Vittoria, the villa has been abandoned for several years. The neighbors rustic and the colombara are ruined. The original splendor preserves only the frescos of the loggia, now faded, depicting Roman ruins, two beautiful soft stone fireplaces from the second half of the sixteenth century and the head of Medusa, placed at the key of the arch of the loggia, attributed to Alessandro Vittoria.

Annotations about the “beautiful, good and honorate buildings”

Villa Forni Cerato has always been the subject of the most fervent studies and the most accurate historiographical analysis by academics and historians of architecture. In particular, it is useful to point out a bibliography of Prof. Donata Battilotti published in the volume on the Villas of the Province of Vicenza, together with a detailed description of the building, its state of degradation and its historical-critical events.

I will remember that the first attribution to Palladio dates back to Muttoni (1740) but is questioned a few years later by Bertotti Scamozzi (1778) who publishes a prospectus, plan and section of the building. Pure Magrini (1845) and Pullè (1847), who prints a splendid lithograph of the villa, do not hold it as an autograph of Palladio. Zorzi (1966 and 1969) and after him the Olivato (1999) attribute it to Vittoria (see homonymous street) and Cevese (1971) to an amateur scholar, perhaps the same Forni. The work of Palladio considers it to be Pane (1961), Ackerman (1967), Puppi (1966, 1973, 1999), Burns (1975, 1979, 1997), Zaupa (1990), Battilotti (1990, 1999, 2001), Beltramini ( 2000). […]

«The author – writes the Cevese – wants to mark with vigor the center of the small façade advancing the median sector which crowns with a triangular pediment and opens into a serliana» from the central arched opening which is accessed by a single ramp staircase with the two side openings and those of the heads closed by a balustrade; «It keeps the side sections wall compact, only by opening it in the three arched windows: the ground floor, the main floor and the attic. In the central body he thickens numerous openings that cut into the wall with a live lip; on the sides there are frames with windows – on the main floor, with a pulvinated frieze, and on the attic, not those on the ground floor – which, however, ranges in fairly wide fields. Precisely because of this difference in dealing with the holes, it seems, in a certain sense, that the factory is composed of two distinct parts, bound together only by the top frame “to the teeth.

Two horizontal bands on the floor and on the sills of the main floor horizontally mark the walls on the two sides and on the rear face present the openings without moldings (three boards on the sides and four on the back) except the central window door, specular compared to the entrance on the back wall of the loggia which, with the openings that surround it, composes a serliana.

The interior of the main floor has a central hall along whose walls, at the extremities, there are four doors with a pulvinated frieze, which lead into the four rooms, on which originally ancient busts were placed; in the late sixties there were still two. At the center of the right wall there is a door with sides that leads into the stairwell (redone, the original ones were spiral); the one on the left, however, is fake. The two rooms looking south still have the two fireplaces of the second half of the sixteenth century on which the busts of Vittoria were located; “Both have scrolled grooved abutments resting on strong lion’s feet”. A third, simpler fireplace is on the ground floor.

The rustic that we see today on the right of the main body and still relevant to it (barchessa with portico on pillars and behind underground cellar), separated from the same by a narrow passage and now reduced to a ruin, end on the roadside, lapped by the canal, with a colombara that presents, according to the Cevese, fifteenth-century characters. The remaining rustic that continue from the colombara south, largely transformed into housing, seem to belong to different construction moments and were separated with another wall from the original property, I think, in the early twentieth century, as well as those present on the left. The latter incorporate a colombara already mentioned in the inventory of 1610 and the well that is believed to have been excavated again in the sixteenth century.

Source: N. Garzaro, The Historical Notebooks of Montecchio Precalcino – XIII. Di Montecchio Precalcino and Toponomastica stradale, 2013, Edizioni Grafiche Leoni