G I O R G I O
V A S A R I

B I O G R A P H Y


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    • Giorgio Vasari (1511-74)


        He was born in Arezzo and trained in Florence, in the circle of Andrea del Sarto and his pupils Rosso and Pontormo, where, above all, he became a Michelangelo idolater. He spent his busy, productive and much travelled life as a painter between Florence and Rome, but he was really a superb impresario rather than a painter himself, and perhaps because of his gifts in this direction his work as an architect (the Uffizi Galleries from the Piazza Vecchia to the river are by him) ranks much higher than his painting.

        His principal paintings are in Florence (Pal. Vecchio frescoes and in galleries) and Rome (Sala Regia in the Vatican, and the so-called Hundred Days fresco in the Cancelleria, of which Michelangelo remarked when Vasari told him how long it took, 'As one may see'), as well as in his own house in Arezzo, which is now a museum.

        He was, however, important in the development of Counter-Reformation iconography, as in his Immaculate Conception (Florence, SS. Apostoli: sketch in Oxford) and in elaborate allegories glorifying the Medici Grand Dukes.

        Above all, however, his fame rests solidly on his book, Le Vite de' piu eccellenti Pittori, Scultori, et Architetti, Italiani..., first published in 1550 and issued in a second, much enlarged, edition in 1568. This 1568 edition has been translated into many languages and is perhaps the most important book on the history of art ever written, both as a source-book and as an example for all the later Italian historiographers. By comparison the 1550 edition is little known, but the differences between it and the second edition are not all in the latter's favour; in the first edition the plan is much clearer, for in it Vasari's intention is plain - to show how the arts died in the Dark Ages, after having been brought to a high pitch in Ancient Rome, and were then revived under Giotto the Tuscan, to progress in a steady rise in Tuscany, until ultimate perfection was reached in his own day in the hands of the Tuscan Michelangelo. In the 1550 edition Michelangelo is the climax of the story and his is the only biography of a living artist. The later edition is less sure in design and includes a number of living artists, including Vasari's own autobiography.

      • Source: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books)


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Updated: 2012