Giorgio Vasari

Giorgio Vasari

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Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical
Art history
Art history has historically been understood as the academic study of objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts, i.e. genre, design, format, and style...

 writing.

Biography


Vasari was born in Arezzo
Arezzo
Arezzo is a city and comune in Central Italy, capital of the province of the same name, located in Tuscany. Arezzo is about 80 km southeast of Florence, at an elevation of 296 m above sea level. In 2011 the population was about 100,000....

, Tuscany
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

. Recommended at an early age by his cousin Luca Signorelli
Luca Signorelli
Luca Signorelli was an Italian Renaissance painter who was noted in particular for his ability as a draughtsman and his use of foreshortening...

, he became a pupil of Guglielmo da Marsiglia
Guglielmo da Marsiglia
Guglielmo da Marsiglia was an Italian painter of stained glass of the 16th century. He is also known as Guglielmo da Marcillat, and was a native of Dt. Michiel near Meuse, France....

, a skillful painter of stained glass
Stained glass
The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works produced from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches and other significant buildings...

. Sent to Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 at the age of sixteen by Cardinal Silvio Passerini, he joined the circle of Andrea del Sarto
Andrea del Sarto
Andrea del Sarto was an Italian painter from Florence, whose career flourished during the High Renaissance and early Mannerism. Though highly regarded during his lifetime as an artist senza errori , his renown was eclipsed after his death by that of his contemporaries, Leonardo da Vinci,...

 and his pupils Rosso Fiorentino
Rosso Fiorentino
Giovanni Battista di Jacopo , known as Rosso Fiorentino , or Il Rosso, was an Italian Mannerist painter, in oil and fresco, belonging to the Florentine school.-Biography:...

 and Jacopo Pontormo where his humanist education was encouraged. He was befriended by Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

 whose painting style would influence his own.

In 1529, he visited Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 and studied the works of Raphael and others of the Roman High Renaissance
High Renaissance
The expression High Renaissance, in art history, is a periodizing convention used to denote the apogee of the visual arts in the Italian Renaissance...

. Vasari's own Mannerist paintings were more admired in his lifetime than afterwards. In 1547 Vasari completes the hall of the chancery in Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome with frescoes that received the name Sala dei Cento Giorni
Sala dei Cento Giorni
In March of 1546, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, at the suggestion of Paolo Giovio, commissions Giorgio Vasari and his assistants to paint al fresco the hail of the chancery in the Palace of S. Giorgio, today known as Palazzo della Cancelleria. The purpose is to celebrate the life of Pope Paul Ill,...

. He was consistently employed by patrons in the Medici family in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 and Rome, and he worked in Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, Arezzo and other places. Many of his pictures still exist, the most important being the wall and ceiling paintings in the great Sala di Cosimo I of the Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany...

 in Florence, where he and his assistants were at work from 1555, and the fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

es he started inside the vast cupola
Cupola
In architecture, a cupola is a small, most-often dome-like, structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome....

 of the Duomo
Santa Maria del Fiore
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the cathedral church of Florence, Italy. The Duomo, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi...

, completed by Federico Zuccari
Federico Zuccari
Federico Zuccari, also known as Federigo Zuccaro , was an Italian Mannerist painter and architect, active both in Italy and abroad.-Biography:Zuccari was born at Sant'Angelo in Vado, near Urbino ....

 and with the help of Giovanni Balducci
Giovanni Balducci
Giovanni Balducci, called Il Cosci after his maternal uncle, was an Italian mannerist painter. Born in Florence, he was trained by Giovanni Battista Naldini...

. He also helped organize the decoration of the Studiolo, now reassembled in the Palazzo Vecchio.

As an architect, Vasari was perhaps more successful than as a painter. His loggia
Loggia
Loggia is the name given to an architectural feature, originally of Minoan design. They are often a gallery or corridor at ground level, sometimes higher, on the facade of a building and open to the air on one side, where it is supported by columns or pierced openings in the wall...

 of the Palazzo degli Uffizi
Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery , is a museum in Florence, Italy. It is one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western world.-History:...

 by the Arno
Arno
The Arno is a river in the Tuscany region of Italy. It is the most important river of central Italy after the Tiber.- Source and route :The river originates on Mount Falterona in the Casentino area of the Apennines, and initially takes a southward curve...

 opens up the vista at the far end of its long narrow courtyard, a unique piece of urban planning that functions as a public piazza, and which, if considered as a short street, is the unique Renaissance street with a unified architectural treatment. The view of the Loggia from the Arno reveals that, with the Vasari Corridor, it is one of very few structures that line the river which are open to the river itself and appear to embrace the riverside environment.


In Florence, Vasari also built the long passage, now called Vasari Corridor
Vasari Corridor
The Vasari Corridor is an elevated enclosed passageway in Florence, central Italy, which connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti. Beginning on the south side of the Palazzo Vecchio, it then joins the Uffizi Gallery and leaves on its south side, crossing the Lungarno dei Archibusieri...

, which connects the Uffizi with the Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti
The Palazzo Pitti , in English sometimes called the Pitti Palace, is a vast mainly Renaissance palace in Florence, Italy. It is situated on the south side of the River Arno, a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio...

 on the other side of the river. The enclosed corridor passes alongside the River Arno on an arcade, crosses the Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers...

 and winds around the exterior of several buildings.

Vasari also renovated the fine medieval churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce, from both of which he removed the original rood screen
Rood screen
The rood screen is a common feature in late medieval church architecture. It is typically an ornate partition between the chancel and nave, of more or less open tracery constructed of wood, stone, or wrought iron...

 and loft, and remodelled the retro-choir
Choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

 in the Mannerist taste of his time. In Santa Croce, he was responsible for the painting of The Adoration of the Magi which was commissioned by Pope Pius V
Pope Pius V
Pope Saint Pius V , born Antonio Ghislieri , was Pope from 1566 to 1572 and is a saint of the Catholic Church. He is chiefly notable for his role in the Council of Trent, the Counter-Reformation, and the standardization of the Roman liturgy within the Latin Church...

 in 1566 and completed in February 1567. It was recently restored, before being put on exhibition in 2011 in Rome and in Naples. Eventually it is planned to return it to the church of Santa Croce in Bosco Marengo
Bosco Marengo
Bosco Marengo is a town and comune in the Province of Alessandria in the Italian region Piedmont, located about 80 km southeast of Turin and about 12 km southeast of Alessandria....

 (Province of Alessandria, Piedmont).

In 1562 Vasari built the octagonal dome atop the Basilica of Our Lady of Humility
Basilica of Our Lady of Humility
The Basilica of Our Lady of Humility is a Roman Catholic Marian basilica in Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy.A miracle attributed to the fresco of the Madonna of humility painted in about 1370 gave rise to the construction of the basilica. The fresco is sometimes attributed to Bartolomeo Cristiani, but was...

 in Pistoia
Pistoia
Pistoia is a city and comune in the Tuscany region of Italy, the capital of a province of the same name, located about 30 km west and north of Florence and is crossed by the Ombrone Pistoiese, a tributary of the River Arno.-History:...

, an important example of high Renaissance
High Renaissance
The expression High Renaissance, in art history, is a periodizing convention used to denote the apogee of the visual arts in the Italian Renaissance...

 architecture.

In Rome, Vasari worked with Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola
Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola
Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola was one of the great Italian architects of 16th century Mannerism. His two great masterpieces are the Villa Farnese at Caprarola and the Jesuits' Church of the Gesù in Rome...

 and Bartolomeo Ammanati
Bartolomeo Ammanati
Bartolomeo Ammannati was an Italian architect and sculptor, born at Settignano, near Florence. He studied under Baccio Bandinelli and Jacopo Sansovino and closely imitated the style of Michelangelo.He was more distinguished in architecture than in sculpture...

 at Pope Julius III
Pope Julius III
Pope Julius III , born Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte, was Pope from 7 February 1550 to 1555....

's Villa Giulia
Villa Giulia
The Villa Giulia is a villa in Rome, Italy. It was built by Pope Julius III in 1550–1555 on what was then the edge of the city. Today it is publicly owned, and houses the Museo Nazionale Etrusco, an impressive collection of Etruscan art and artifacts....

.
Vasari enjoyed high repute during his lifetime and amassed a considerable fortune. In 1547, he built himself a fine house in Arezzo (now a museum honouring him), and laboured to decorate its walls and vaults with paintings. He was elected to the municipal council or priori of his native town, and finally rose to the supreme office of gonfaloniere.

In 1563, he helped found the Florence Accademia e Compagnia delle Arti del Disegno
Accademia delle Arti del Disegno
The Accademia delle Arti del Disegno of Florence promotes the safeguard of the works of art in Italy. Founded in 1563, it was the first academy of drawing established in Europe.- History of the Accademia :...

, with the Grand Duke and Michelangelo as capi of the institution and 36 artists chosen as members. Vasari died at Florence on 27 June 1574.

The Lives




As the first Italian art historian, he initiated the genre of an encyclopedia of artistic biographies that continues today. Vasari coined the term "Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

" (rinascita) in print, though an awareness of the ongoing "rebirth" in the arts had been in the air from the time of Alberti
Leone Battista Alberti
Leon Battista Alberti was an Italian author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, cryptographer and general Renaissance humanist polymath...

. Vasari's Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects) — dedicated to Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici — was first published in 1550. It included a valuable treatise on the technical methods employed in the arts. It was partly rewritten and enlarged in 1568, with the addition of woodcut portraits of artists (some conjectural).

The work has a consistent and notorious bias in favour of Florentines and tends to attribute to them all the developments in Renaissance art — for example, the invention of engraving
Engraving
Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing...

. Venetian art in particular (along with arts from other parts of Europe), is systematically ignored in the first edition. Between the first and second editions, Vasari visited Venice and while the second edition gave more attention to Venetian art (finally including Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

) it did so without achieving a neutral point of view.

Vasari's biographies are interspersed with amusing gossip. Many of his anecdotes have the ring of truth, while others are inventions or generic fictions, such as the tale of young Giotto painting a fly on the surface of a painting by Cimabue
Cimabue
Cimabue , also known as Bencivieni di Pepo or in modern Italian, Benvenuto di Giuseppe, was an Italian painter and creator of mosaics from Florence....

 that the older master repeatedly tried to brush away, a genre tale that echoes anecdotes told of the Greek painter Apelles. With a few exceptions, however, Vasari's aesthetic judgement was acute and unbiased. He did not research archives for exact dates, as modern art historians do, and naturally his biographies are most dependable for the painters of his own generation and those of the immediate past. Modern criticism — with new materials opened up by research — has corrected many of his traditional dates and attributions. The work remains a classic, though it must be supplemented by modern critical research.

Vasari includes a sketch of his own biography at the end of his Lives, and adds further details about himself and his family in his lives of Lazzaro Vasari and Francesco Salviati
Francesco de' Rossi (Il Salviati)
Francesco de' Rossi was an Italian Mannerist painter from Florence, also active in Rome. He is known by many names, prominently the adopted name Francesco Salviati or as Il Salviati, but also Francesco Rossi and Cecchino del Salviati.-Biography:Salviati was born and died in Florence...

.

Competition and "Competition"


According to the historian Richard Goldthwaite, Vasari was one of the earliest authors to use the word "competition" (or "concorrenza") in Italian in its economic sense. He used it repeatedly, but perhaps most notably while explaining the reasons for Florentine preeminence, in the introduction to his life of Pietro Perugino
Pietro Perugino
Pietro Perugino , born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High Renaissance...

.

In Vasari's view, Florentine artists excelled because they were hungry, and they were hungry because their fierce competition for commissions each with the others kept them hungry. Competition, he said, is "one of the nourishments that maintain them."

External links



Copies of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists online: