“L’illustrissimo signor Niccolò Molino Cavaliere, built a house according to these drawings in a place called la Mandria… The building looks at the Sirocco: in front of the villa there is Bacchiglione a shipping canal”
Vincenzo Scamozzi, from “L’Idea dell’Architettura Universale”
Abstract of the book L’Idea di Architettura Universale describing Villa Molin, written by Vincenzo Scamozzi.
As it was common, the family had important palaces and villas in the area governed by Venice.
In 1581, according to tax declaration, the family had in the south part of Padova a two storey house with “cortivi, horto, bruolo, colombara, pozzo, forno e chiesiola” tenuta “per uso et abitazion nostra”.
The plot of land, comprising of fifty-two fields lying between Mandria and Abano Terme, was in the possession of Donna Elena, widow of Vincenzo Molin, in 1582.
The area is in a strategic place between all the properties of the family in Padova, Rovigo, Verona.
Nicolò Molin (1562-1608), who was one of the most important politician of the “Serenissima”, decided to build a new villa just outside Padova, knonw as “il palazzo al ponte della Cagna”.
Niccolò was the venetian ambassador to Florence and to James I of England (1603-1606, savio di terraferma (cousellor of the Republic) (1601-1603), and in 1607 he married the doughter of the Doge Marino Grimani.
When Nicolò wished to erect a villa for summer use that would be suited to the family’s standing, it was natural to turn to Scamozzi, first among Venetian architects in the terrafirma since the death of Palladio in 1580.
Vincenzo Scamozzi, was at that time the proto (official architect) of the Republic, so he represented the magnificence of Venice.
The villa was rapidly completed but not long enjoyed by its patron, who died on 9 May, 1608.
After his death the house was inherited by his brother Francesco.
Seven years later he conveyed the villa to conte Pio Capodilista who had many properties in the area; it passed to his son Annibale, then to the heirs of Annibale’s sister Sigismonda. Alienated from the Conti family in 1768-72, its return was the signal for a thorough-going restoration of its interiors in the hands of conte Antonio, Capodilista, which gave to the smaller rooms the rococo stucco decorations of their vaulted ceilings.
Passing through heiresses in the nineteenth century, the villa’s lands were subdivided and it was eventually reduced to a farmhouse before being rehabilitated by a sympathetic new owner, marquis Michele Dondi dell’ Orologio. He provided the villa with its grand exterior staircase to the piano nobile and planted the surrounding parkland with specimen trees, now at full maturity.
During World War I, the villa served as military command headquarters and was the site of preliminary negotiations that led to the signing of the Austrian-Italian Armistice of Villa Giusti on 3th novembre 1918. In 1955 Villa Molin was restored again by the industrialist Igino Kofler, who replanted the formal Italian walled gardens with boxwood-edged beds.
The interior of the villa is truly magnificent and is even more stunning than the exterior.
The stucco-faced structure is built on a perfectly square plan, raised on a high rusticated service basement with an Ionic portico, lifted well above the public towpath and facing the Canal. This primary façade of the villa is reminiscent of Andrea Palladio’s Villa Rotonda or the Villa Foscari (called “La Malcontenta”).
Scamozzi was responsible for the completion of the Villa Rotonda after Palladio’s death, and designed the low central dome modelled on that of the Pantheon with a central oculus.
The solid sides of the pronaos are pierced by grand arch-headed openings to provide additional cross-draft in summer heat.
The grand central room thus enclosed is frescoed with feigned architecture — niches, columns, balustrades — and flanked by symmetrically arranged smaller and lower barrel-vaulted rooms that are linked by generous arched openings.
Thus there is an articulated central reception space in the form of a Greek cross. The vestibules give onto more intimate spaces, in a series of cubes, double cubes and “golden mean” rectangles characteristic of cinquecento villa floorplans (See Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, The Warburg Institute, London, 1949).
Unlike Palladio, who designed the courtyard as an empty space or as a linking element between different buildings, Scamozzi considered the empty parts as the physical and conceptual barycenter, which is generally square shaped and bounded by stucco decorated facades.
In villa Molin it is an extraordinary heightned ceiling of 12 m, almost a covered courtyard.
On the front we can see the coat of arms, made of marble, of Molin family, a mill (mulino in Italian) and three “statue acroteriali” (statues) on the top.
The pronao with the six ionic coloumns recalls the greek temples and it is a typical feature of the villas.
The original ionic diagonal capital are called “capitelli scamozziani” and are inspired by the capital of tempio di Saturno in Rome, that Scamozzi visited while in Rome during is studies about classical architecture.
The building faces the bank of Battaglia canal: the “loggia” ideally dominated all the area.
It was in the middle of all the properties of Niccolò Molin, so from there he could easily look at his estates.
The pronao with the six jonic coloumns recalls the greek temples.
On the “frontone” (main front) we can see the shield of the family and some “statue acroteriali” (statues) on the top.
The lateral facades (north and south) have the typical features of the venetian buildings with chimneys and no architectural signes.
Also the serlian window has no capital and the only prominent element is the “architrave”. There are no stone elements a part from the windowsills.
John Soane was one of the greatest admirers of Scamozzi and he came to Italy to visit and study his works, leaving his commentaries and beautiful scketches.
Inigo Jones, during his grand tour to Italy in 1613-1614, visited villa Molin and cited it in 1636 in his essay on the coloumns and balustrades.
He said that he was inspired by the columns of the loggia without any basement: “come ho fatto a Greenwich, nella loggia verso il parco, e come ho visto a Ponte della Cagnia vicino a Padova in una villa del Clarissimo Molin”. In to the boddy of the collome as I did at Greenwich.
“Friday the first of August 1614 I spoake with Scamozo in this matter and he hath resolved me in this in the manner of voltes”
Inigo Jones, note in his copy of the Quattro Libri, Book I, 54