- Vasari, Giorgio
- (1511-1574)Italian artist and architect, best known as the author of a highly influential history of art. The son of an artisan of Arezzo, he received a good vernacular education and had sufficient command of Latin to read works in that language, but not to write in it. He moved to Florence in 1524 as a member of the household of Alessandro and Ippolito de'Medici and maintained connections with important literary figures of his time. His artistic training began in Arezzo, where he worked with a French glass painter, but later he associated with more important artists, including Andrea del Sarto and Rosso Fiorentino. Vasari had strong support from the Medici family and from important figures at the papal curia. As a painter, he was highly productive, heading a large workshop and accepting commissions great and small. His Deeds of Pope Paul III, painted for the pope's grandson Alessandro Farnese in 1546, and his paintings in the Palazzo Vecchio at Florence (1555-1572) were his most notable achievements as a painter. He was also an architect. The Loggia of the Uffizi Palace in Florence (1560) was inspired by Michelangelo's Laurentian Library. He designed the De Monte chapel in the Church of San Pietro in Montorio at Rome, and rebuilt the Gothic church of the Pieve in Arezzo.As a painter and architect, Vasari was successful and competent, but not especially memorable. His greatest achievement was literary, his book Le vite de'più eccelenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani / The Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Architects, Painters, and Sculptors (1550; enlarged edition, 1568). In this book he expresses admiration for classical art as a standard of excellence and notes its decline in the fourth century. The art of the subsequent period (me-dieval art) was inferior, in part because it produced images that were flat rather than natural-looking. He attributed the beginning of a re-vival of good art to the late 13th century because of the paintings of Cimabue and especially Giotto. He defined a second era of "rebirth" that began with the paintings of Masaccio and the sculptures of Do-natello. The third and most perfect period was defined by the works of the three great High Renaissance artists, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael.In general, success in realistic representation of nature was the standard by which Vasari judged the quality of each age and each artist. His three-part division of Renaissance art, and his definition of medieval art as inferior and Renaissance art as a new age of artistic glory, influenced all subsequent art critics and historians, and while his denigration of medieval art was largely abandoned during the 19th century, his categories for classifying Renaissance art still are influential. His book also provided useful biographical information on individual artists, especially useful for those of the High Renais-sance period since many of their pupils and other contemporaries were still alive when he wrote.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.