Giorgio Vasari

From Academic Kids

Giorgio Vasari (Arezzo, Tuscany July 3, 1511 - Florence, June 27, 1574) was an Italian painter and architect, mainly known for his famous biographies of Italian artists.

Missing image
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 Cardinal Silvio Passerini who sent him to study in Florence, in the circle of Andrea del Sarto and his pupils Rosso and Jacopo Pontormo. His humanist education was not ignored, and he met and knew Michelangelo, whose painting style influenced Vasari's.

In 1529 he visited Rome and studied the works of Raphael and others of the Roman High Renaissance of the previous generation. Vasari's own Mannerist paintings were more admired in his lifetime than afterwards. He was consistently employed by patrons in the Medici family in Florence and Rome, and he worked in 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 broad, uncompleted frescoes inside the dome of the Florentine Duomo.

As an architect he was perhaps more successful. The loggia of the Palazzo degli Uffizi by the Arno opens up the vista at the far end of its long narrow courtyard, a unique piece of urbanistic planning that functions as a public piazza, and which, if one considered it as a short street, is the unique Renaissance street with a unified architectural treatment. In Florence Vasari also built the long passage connecting the Uffizi with the Pitti Palace, through arcading across the Ponte Vecchio. 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 Mannerist taste of his time.

In Rome, Vasari worked with Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola and Bartolomeo Ammanati at Pope Julius III's Villia Giulia.

Vasari enjoyed a very high repute during his lifetime and amassed a considerable fortune. He built himself in 1547 a fine house in Arezzo (now a museum honoring him), 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.

In 1563 he founded the Accademia del Disegno at Florence, with the Grand Duke and Michelangelo as capi of the institution and thirty-six artists chosen for members. He died at Florence on June 27, 1574.

The cover of the "Vite"
The cover of the "Vite"

The Vite

As the first Italian art historian, he initiated the genre of an encyclopedia of artistic biographies that continues today. Vasari coined the term "Renaissance" (rinascita) in print, though an awareness of the ongoing "rebirth" in the arts had been in the air from the time of Alberti. Vasari's great work was first published in 1550, and dedicated to Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici; it included a valuable treatise on the technical methods employed in the arts. It was partly rewritten and enlarged in 1568 and provided with woodcut portraits of artists (some conjectural), entitled Delle Vite de' pi eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori.

His biographies are interspersed with amusing stories. Many of Vasari's anecdotes have the ring of truth, athough some indeed are too good to be true. Others are generic fictions, like the tale of young Giotto painting a fly on the surface of a painting of Cimabue's, which the older master repeatedly tried to brush away, a genre tale that echoes anecdotes told of the Greek painter Apelles. With a few exceptions Vasari's esthetic judgment is acute and unbiased. Vasari did not rifle archives for exact dates, as modern art historians do, and naturally his biographies are more dependable for the painters of his own generation and the preceding one. Modern criticism - with all the new materials opened up by research - has corrected a good many of his traditional dates and attributions. The result is a tendency very often to underestimate Vasari's accuracy.

The work 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 have 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.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

External links

  • Brief vita (


  • The Lives of the Artists (Oxford World's Classics). Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 019283410X
  • Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Volumes I and II. Everyman's Library, 1996. ISBN 0679451013
  • Vasari on Technique. Dover Publications, 1980. ISBN 048620717X
  • Life of Michelangelo. Alba House, 2003. ISBN 0818909358

Partly derived from a 1911 encyclopedia. Please update as Vasari es:Giorgio Vasari fr:Giorgio Vasari ko:조르조 바사리 it:Giorgio Vasari nl:Giorgio Vasari ja:ジョルジョ・ヴァザーリ pl:Giorgio Vasari pt:Giorgio Vasari sv:Giorgio Vasari zh:乔治·瓦萨里


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