Giorgio Vasari (July 3, 1511 - June 27, 1571) was an Italian painter and architect, mainly known for his famous biographies of Italian artists, was born at Arezzo, in Tuscany.
Giorgio Vasari's selfportrait
At a very early age he became a pupil of Guglielmo da Marsiglia[?], a very skilful painter of stained glass, to whom he was recommended by his own kinsman, the painter Luca Signorelli. At the age of sixteen he went to Florence, where he studied under Michelangelo and Andrea del Sarto, aided by the patronage of the Medici princes.
In 1529 he visited Rome and studied the works of Raphael and others of his school. The paintings of Vasari were much admired but some critics saw them as parodies of the works of Michelangelo. Vasari was largely employed in Florence, Rome, Naples, Arezzo and other places. Many of his pictures still exist, the most important being the wall and ceiling paintings in the great hall of the Palazzo Vecchio[?] in Florence, and his frescoes on the cupola of the cathedral, which, however, were not completed at the time of his death.
As an architect he was perhaps more successful: the loggia[?] of the Uffizi by the Arno, and the long passage connecting it with the Pitti Palace[?], through Ponte Vecchio, are his chief works. Unhappily he did much to injure the fine medieval churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce[?], from both of which he removed the original rood-screen and loft, and remodelled the retro-choir in the degraded taste of his time.
Vasari enjoyed a very high repute during his lifetime and amassed a considerable fortune. He built himself in 1547 a fine house in Arezzo, and spent much labour in decorating its walls and vaults with paintings. He was elected one of the municipal council or priori[?] of his native town, and finally rose to the supreme office of gonfaloniere[?]. He died at Florence on June 27, 1571.
The cover of the "Vite"
As an art historian of his country, he is usually considered in the highest ranks. His great work was first published in 1550, and afterwards partly rewritten and enlarged in 1568, bearing the title Delle Vite de' pił eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori. It was dedicated to Cosimo de Medici, and was printed at Florence by the Giunti[?]; it is a small quarto illustrated with many good woodcut portraits. This editio princeps of the work contains a very valuable treatise on the technical methods employed in all branches of the arts.
His biographies are written in a very pleasant style, interspersed with amusing stories. With a few exceptions Vasari's judgment is acute and unbiased, even if many anecdotes he reports have proven to be wholly fantastic. And though modern criticism - with all the new materials opened up by research - has done valuable work in upsetting a good many of his traditional accounts and attributions, the result is a tendency very often to underestimate Vasari's accuracy and to multiply hypotheses of a rather speculative character. The work in any case remains a classic, however it may be supplemented by the more critical research of modern days.
Vasari gives a sketch of his own biography at the end of his Vite, and adds further details about himself and his family in his lives of Lazzaro Vasari and Francesco Salviati[?]. The Lives has been translated into French, German and English.
The Vite contains the biographies of many important Italian artists, and is also adopted as a sort of classical reference guide for their names, which are sometimes used in different ways. The following list respects the order of the book, as divided into its three parts.
partly derived from a 1911 encyclopedia