Giorgio Vasari

"…I used to say to myself at times, ‘Why should it not be in my power to obtain by assiduous study and labour some of that grandeur and rank that so many others have acquired? They, also, were of flesh and bones, as I am.’…I disposed myself never to shrink from any fatigue, discomfort, vigil, and toil, in order to achieve that end…"

- Giorgio Vasari, 1568

The painter and architect Vasari directed teams of assistants to produce large-scale decorations, and assembled a magnificent collection of artist’s drawings. His critical study of art and architecture, Lives of the Artists (Florence, 1550 and 1564-68) is considered the foundation of modern art history.

Vasari, from a family of Arezzo potters (vasari), received a classical education with sons of the Medici dynasty of Florence. His principal art teachers were the painter Andrea del Sarto, the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli, and the goldsmith Vittorio Ghiberti. From 1532, he worked frequently for Medici patrons in Rome and Florence, executing large projects with teams of assistants. He borrowed ideas from other artists, among them Rosso Fiorentino. Vasari studied Parmigianino and Raphael's work in Bologna, and knew Titian. He travelled widely to gather material for his Lives of the Artists, (Le vite de più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori.(Florence, 1550), publishing an enlarged second edition in 1564-68. Vasari's Libro de'disegni was among the earliest collections of older drawings.

The young Vasari aspired to a career as court painter to the Medici dynasty. He painted a portrait of Lorenzo il Magnifico in 1534 (Florence, Uffizi) for his Medici patrons, and designed Medici court ceremonial decorations, but also worked independently from 1537. Vasari designed the Uffizi and remodeled the Florentine churches of S. Maria Novella and S. Croce, as well as much of central Pisa (from 1561). His frescoes honouring the Medici dukes (1563-1571) at their Palazzo Vecchio in Florence set a precedent for ruler’s residences. Vasari also designed one of the largest domes in Renaissance Italy, for the church of the Madonna dell’Umiltà, Pistoia. He decorated his own houses in Arezzo and Florence with frescoes praising art and artists, and designed frescoes for Vatican chapels. Vasari died before completing a commission to fresco the dome of Florence’s cathedral. In 1562 he founded an Academy of Drawing at Florence, the first to teach art theory as well as practice.


1555Appointed official court painter to Duke Cosimo I de’Medici

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