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Victorian Italianate c. 1840—c. 1890

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  07 Bourke Street Public School 42 Kellet Street and area

06 Balmain Post Office and Courthouse

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  01 Leichhardt Town Hall 24 Venetia [Bellevue] 12 Leichhardt Public School
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  01 Pyrmont Public School 15 Hydraulic Pumphouse 07 Chief Secretary's Office
 Macquarie Street
In the seventeenth century, two French artists, Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, fell under the spell of the Italian landscape and in their paintings translated it into a vision of Arcadia. For more than a century thereafter, many cultured Europeans allowed themselves to admire a real landscape only if it was literally ‘picturesque’ enough to resemble a painting by Claude.
Through the efforts of such men as Uvedale Price, Richard Payne Knight and Humphrey Repton, the Picturesque movement in architecture and landscape design gained strength in Britain without ever completely forgetting its Franco-Italic beginnings. From this movement, a significant strand of nineteenth-century domestic architecture endeavoured to establish a vaguely Italian ambience, drawing on images of rambling farmhouses in the Campagna and idyllic villas in the Tuscan countryside. The facile John Nash began the movement in Britain in 1803 with the stuccoed, picturesquely asymmetrical Cronkhill in Shropshire. Karl Friedrich von Schinkel provided an important Continental example of the Italianate style some decades later with his Court Gardener’s House at Potsdam (1829—31). Pattern books were an important vehicle for the spread of the style, two influential publications being Charles Parker’s Villa Rustica (1832) and Calvert Vaux’s Villas and Cottages, published in America in 1857. No less a personage than Prince Albert, working with Thomas Cubitt, gave the Italianate style a boost when he designed Osborne on the Isle of Wight (1845), a retreat for Queen Victoria and the royal family. Osborne, with its tall, balustraded tower, was to be the model for many large residences throughout the Empire, including Government House in Melbourne.
The Italianate style was never an ‘academic’ idiom. As a style of domestic architecture in Australia, Victorian Italianate made minimal reference to Italy. Mouldings and minor details usually had a classical feeling, but two of the style’s prominent characteristics—the faceted bay and the stilted segmental arch—were not specifically Italian at all. A Victorian Italianate building of any consequence has a tower capped with a low- pitch pyramid roof—or, more pretentiously, with a balustrade—and it is likely to have an asymmetrical principal elevation. Indeed, it can be claimed with much justification that the Great Australian Asymmetrical Front (where the main bedroom pokes out a metre or two towards the Street beyond the rest of the house) began with the Victorian Italianate and has continued with little interruption down to the present day.

St.Elmo, Arcadia Road, Glebe, NSW. Architect unknown, C. 1890. A common Australian type. Asymmetry and a faceted bay are its main Italianate features.
  Quoted from:
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.