Artibus et Historiae no. 35 (XVIII)

1997, ISSN 0391-9064

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CAROLYN KOLB - The Sculptures on the Nymphaeum Hemicycle of the Villa Barbaro at Maser

The garden Nymphaeum, the most elaborately decorated comĀ­ponent of Palladio's Villa Barbaro at Maser, has never been open for public visitation, and has thus remained poorly studied. In particular, its authorship has been controversial and its iconography undeciphered, until this important and influential study was presented (in slightly condensed form) by the late Carolyn Kolb at an annual meeting of the College Art Association in 1978. In this paper, Kolb identified and interpreted the ten mythological figures and their accompanying inscriptions on the Nymphaeum hemicycle, to reveal a highly intricate iconographic scheme which comments on love, marriage and human frailty. In addition, she convincingly attributed this stucco decoration to the younger of the villa's two humanist owners, MarcAntonio Barbaro. Kolb's often-revised drafts and incomplete notes for this study were collated and annotated by Melissa Beck, whose major effort of recuperation has salvaged this useful study, whose content had previously been known only through its presentation in lectures. In a postscript bringing the argument and the literature up to date as of the publication of the essays in her memory, Douglas Lewis has reviewed the contribuĀ­tions since 1978 on the structural history of the Villa Barbaro, its iconography, and the respective roles of its artists and patrons.

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