Giorgio Vasari
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"Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects

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Giorgio Vasari
born July 30, 1511, Arezzo [Italy]
died June 27, 1574, Florence

Italian painter, architect, and writer who is best known for his important biographies of Italian Renaissance artists.

When still a child, Vasari was the pupil of Guglielmo de Marcillat, but hisdecisive training was in Florence, where he enjoyed the friendship and patronage of the Medici family, trained within the circle of Andrea del Sarto, and became a lifelong admirer of Michelangelo. As an artist Vasari was both studious and prolific. His painting is best represented by the fresco cycles in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and by the so-called 100-days fresco, which depicts scenes from the life of Pope Paul III, in the Cancelleria in Rome. Vasari's paintings, often produced with the help of a team of assistants, are in the style of the Tuscan Mannerists and have often been criticized as being facile, superficial, and lacking a sense of colour. Contemporary scholars regard Vasari more highly as an architect than as a painter. His best-known buildings are the Uffizi in Florence, begun in 1560 for Cosimo I de' Medici, and the church, monastery, and palace created for the Cavalieri di San Stefano in Pisa. These designs show the influence of Michelangelo and are outstanding examples of the Tuscan Mannerist style of architecture.

Vasari's fame rests on his massive book Le Vite de' piu eccellenti architetti, pittori, et sculptori italiani… (1550, 2nd ed., 1568; Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects , 1850–52, trans. of the 2nd ed.), which was dedicated to Cosimo de' Medici. In it Vasari offers his own critical history of Western art through several prefaces and alengthy series of artist biographies. These discussions present three periods of artistic development: according to Vasari, the excellence of the art of classical antiquity was followed by a decline of quality during the Dark Ages, which was in turn reversed by a renaissance of the arts in Tuscany in the 14th century, initiated by Cimabue and Giotto and culminating in the works of Michelangelo. A second and much-enlarged edition of Lives, which added the biographies of a number of artists then living, as well as Vasari's own autobiography, is now much better known than the first edition and has been widely translated.

Vasari's writing style in the Lives is anecdotal and eminently readable. When facts were scarce, however, he did not hesitate to fill in the gaps with information of questionable veracity. His bias toward Italian (and more specifically Tuscan) art is also undeniable. Despite these flaws, Vasari's work in Lives represents the first grandiose example of modern historiography and has proven to be hugely influential. The canon of Italian Renaissance artists he established in the book endures as the standard to this day. Moreover, the trajectory of art history he presented has formed the conceptual basis for Renaissance scholarship and continues to influence popular perceptions of the history of Western painting.

Encyclopædia Britannica

Oil on panel, 144 x 113 cm
Casa Vasari, Arezzo

Deposition from the Cross
c. 1540
Oil on canvas, 311 x 210 cm
Santi Donato e Ilariano, Camaldoli

Portrait of Duke Alessandro de' Medici
Oil on canvas
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence

Allegory of the Immaculate Conception
Tempera on wood, 58 x 39 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Oil on panel, 79 x 188 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Oil on panel, 79 x 188 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Temptations of St Jerome
Oil on wood, 169 x 123 cm
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence

The Nativity
c. 1546
Oil on canvas
Galleria Borghese, Rome

Oil on canvas, 101 x 80 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Portrait of Lorenzo the Magnificent
Oil on wood, 90 x 72 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Oil on wood, 216 x 166 cm
Musйe du Louvre, Paris


Oil on poplar panel, diameter 157 cm
Mуra Ferenc Mъzeum, Szeged

The Prophet Elisha
c. 1566
Oil on wood, 40 x 29 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Marriage at Cana
Oil on panel, 40 x 28 cm
Szйpmыvйszeti Mъzeum, Budapest

The Studio of the Painter
c. 1563
Casa Vasari, Florence


Vulcan's Forge
Oil on copper, 38 x 28 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Incredulity of St Thomas
Oil on panel
Santa Croce, Florence

Perseus and Andromeda
Oil on slate, 117 x 100 cm
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence