Inigo Jones was the first significant English architect in the early modern period, the first to employ Vitruvian rules of proportion and symmetry in his buildings. As the most notable architect in England, Jones was the first person to introduce the classical architecture of Rome and the Italian Renaissance to Britain, he left his mark on London by his design of single buildings, such as the Queen's House, the first building in England designed in a pure classical style, the Banqueting House, Whitehall, as well as the layout for Covent Garden square which became a model for future developments in the West End. He made major contributions to stage design by his work as theatrical designer for several dozen masques, most by royal command and many in collaboration with Ben Jonson. Beyond the fact that he was born in Smithfield, the son of Inigo Jones, a Welsh cloth worker, baptised at the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less, little is known about Jones's early years, he did not approach the architectural profession in the traditional way, namely either by rising up from a craft or through early exposure to the Office of Works, although there is evidence that Christopher Wren obtained information that recorded Jones as an apprentice joiner in St Paul's Churchyard.
At some point before 1603 a rich patron sent him to Italy to study drawing after being impressed by the quality of his sketches. From Italy he travelled to Denmark where he worked for King Christian on the design of the palaces of Rosenborg and Frederiksborg. Jones first became famous as a designer of costumes and stage settings after he brought "masques" to the stage. Under the patronage of Queen Anne of Denmark, he is credited with introducing movable scenery and the proscenium arch to English theatre. Between 1605 and 1640, he was responsible for staging over 500 performances, collaborating with Ben Jonson for many years, despite a relationship fraught with competition and jealousy: the two had arguments about whether stage design or literature was more important in theatre. Over 450 drawings for the scenery and costumes survive, demonstrating Jones's virtuosity as a draughtsman and his development between 1605 and 1609 from showing "no knowledge of Renaissance draughtsmanship" to exhibiting an "accomplished Italianate manner" and understanding of Italian set design that of Alfonso and Giulio Parigi.
This development suggests a second visit to Italy, circa 1606, influenced by the ambassador Henry Wotton. Jones learned to speak Italian fluently and there is evidence that he owned an Italian copy of Andrea Palladio's I quattro libri dell'architettura with marginalia that refer to Wotton, his architectural work was influenced by Palladio. To a lesser extent, he held to the architectural principles of the ancient Roman writer Vitruvius. Jones's first recorded architectural design is for a monument to Lady Cotton, circa 1608, at Norton-in-Hales, Shropshire showing early signs of his classical intentions. Around this time, Jones produced drawings for the New Exchange in the Strand and the central tower of St. Paul's Cathedral, displaying a similar practical architectural inexperience and immature handling of themes from sources including Palladio and Sangallo. In 1609, having accompanied Lord Salisbury's son and heir, Viscount Cranborne, around France, he appears as an architectural consultant at Hatfield House, making small modifications to the design as the project progressed, in 1610, Jones was appointed Surveyor to Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales.
He devised a masque for the Prince and was involved in some alterations to St James's Palace. On 27 April 1613, Jones was appointed the position of Surveyor of the King's Works and shortly after, embarked on a tour of Italy with the Earl of Arundel, destined to become one of the most important patrons in the history of English art. On this trip, Jones was exposed to the architecture of Rome, Florence, Vicenza and Venice among others, his surviving sketchbook shows his preoccupation with such artists as Schiavone. He is known to have met Vincenzo Scamozzi at this time, his annotated copy of Palladio's Quattro libri dell'architettura demonstrates his close interest in classical architecture: Jones gave priority to Roman antiquity rather than observing the contemporary fashion in Italy. He was the first Englishman to study these Roman remains first hand and this was key to the new architecture Jones introduced in England. In September 1615, Jones was appointed Surveyor-General of the King's Works, marking the beginning of Jones's career in earnest.
Both James I and Charles I spent lavishly on their buildings, contrasting hugely with the economical court of Elizabeth I. As the King's Surveyor, Jones built some of his key buildings in London. In 1616, work began on the Queen's House, for James I's wife, Anne. With the foundations laid and the first storey built, work stopped when Anne died in 1619. Work resumed in 1629, but this time for Henrietta Maria, it was finished in 1635 as the first classical building in England, employing ideas found in the architecture of Palladio and ancient Rome. This is Jones's earliest-surviving work. Between 1619 and 1622, the Banqueting House in the Palace of Whitehall was built, a design derived from buildings by Scamozzi and Palladio, to which a ceiling painted by Peter Paul Rubens was added several years later; the Whitehall palace was one of several projects where Jones worked with his personal assistant and nephew by marriage John We
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