Giorgio Vasari
Self-portrait by Vasari
Born(1511-07-30)30 July 1511
Died27 June 1574(1574-06-27) (aged 62)
NationalityItalian
EducationAndrea del Sarto
Known for
  • Painting
  • architecture
  • art history
Notable work
Biographies of Italian artists
MovementRenaissance

Giorgio Vasari (/vəˈsɑːri/, also US: /-ˈzɑːr-, vɑːˈzɑːri/,[1][2][3][4] Italian: [ˈdʒordʒo vaˈzaːri]; 30 July 1511 – 27 June 1574) was an Italian painter, architect, engineer, writer, and historian, best known for his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing, and the basis for biographies of several Renaissance artists, including Leonardo da Vinci. Vasari designed the Tomb of Michelangelo in the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence that was completed in 1578. Based on Vasari's text in print about Giotto's new manner of painting as a rinascita (rebirth), author Jules Michelet in his Histoire de France (1835)[5] suggested adoption of Vasari's concept, using the term Renaissance (rebirth, in French) to distinguish the cultural change. The term was adopted thereafter in historiography and still is in use today.

Life

Vasari was born prematurely on 30 July 1511 in Arezzo, Tuscany.[6] Recommended at an early age by his cousin Luca Signorelli, he became a pupil of Guglielmo da Marsiglia, a skillful painter of stained glass.[7][8] Sent to Florence at the age of sixteen by Cardinal Silvio Passerini, he joined the circle of Andrea del Sarto and his pupils, Rosso Fiorentino and Jacopo Pontormo, where his humanist education was encouraged. He was befriended by Michelangelo, whose painting style would influence his own. He died on 27 June 1574 in Florence, Grand Duchy of Tuscany, aged 62.[6]

Painting

Six Tuscan Poets by Giorgio Vasari, c. 1544, from left to right: Marsilio Ficino, Cristoforo Landino, Francesco Petrarca, Giovanni Boccaccio, Dante Alighieri, and Guido Cavalcanti[9]
The Garden of Gethsemane by Giorgio Vasari
The Garden of Gethsemane by Giorgio Vasari

In 1529, he visited Rome where he studied the works of Raphael and other artists of the Roman High Renaissance. Vasari's own Mannerist paintings were more admired in his lifetime than afterward. In 1547, he completed the hall of the chancery in Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome with frescoes that received the name Sala dei Cento Giorni. He was employed consistently by members of the Medici family in Florence and Rome, and worked in Naples (for example on the Vasari Sacristy), Arezzo, and other places. Many of his paintings still exist, the most important being on the wall and ceiling of the Sala di Cosimo I in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence,[8] where he and his assistants were at work from 1555, and the frescoes he began inside the vast cupola of the Duomo were completed by Federico Zuccari and with the help of Giovanni Balducci. He also helped to organize the decoration of the Studiolo, now reassembled in the Palazzo Vecchio.

In Rome, he painted frescos in the Sala Regia. Included among his better-known pupils or followers are Sebastiano Flori, Bartolomeo Carducci, Mirabello Cavalori (Salincorno), Stefano Veltroni (of Monte San Savino), and Alessandro Fortori (of Arezzo).[10]

Architecture

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Aside from his career as a painter, Vasari was successful as an architect.[11]

The Uffizi Loggia
The Uffizi Loggia

His loggia of the Palazzo degli Uffizi by the Arno opens up the vista at the far end of its long narrow courtyard. It is a unique piece of urban planning that functions as a public piazza, and which, if considered as a short street, is unique as a 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 lining the river that are open to the river and appear to embrace the riverside environment.

In Florence, Vasari also built the long passage, now called Vasari Corridor, which connects the Uffizi with the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the river. The enclosed corridor passes alongside the River Arno on an arcade, crosses the Ponte Vecchio, and winds around the exterior of several buildings. It was once the home of the Mercado de Vecchio.[12]

He renovated the medieval churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce. At both, he removed the original rood screen and loft, and remodelled the retro-choirs in the Mannerist taste of his time.[8]

In Santa Croce, he was responsible for the painting of The Adoration of the Magi that was commissioned by Pope Pius V in 1566 and completed in February 1567. It was restored recently, before being put on exhibition in 2011 in Rome and in Naples. Eventually, it will be returned to the church of Santa Croce in Bosco Marengo (Province of Alessandria, Piedmont).

In 1562, Vasari built the octagonal dome on the Basilica of Our Lady of Humility in Pistoia, an important example of High Renaissance architecture.[13]

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

The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects

Main article: Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects

A cover of the Lives
A cover of the Lives

Often called "the first art historian",[14] Vasari invented the genre of the encyclopedia of artistic biographies with his Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects), first published in 1550 and dedicated to Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici. He was the first to use the term "Rinascita" (rebirth in Italian) in print – although an awareness of an ongoing "rebirth" in the arts had been in the air since the time of Alberti. Vasari's term, applied to the change in artistic styles with the work of Giotto, eventually would become the French term Renaissance (rebirth) for the era that followed. Vasari was responsible for the modern use of the term Gothic art, as well, although he only used the word Goth in association with the German style that preceded the rebirth, which he identified as "barbaric".

The Lives also included a novel treatise on the technical methods employed in the arts.[15][8] The book was partly rewritten and enlarged in 1568,[8] with the addition of woodcut portraits of artists (some conjectural).[citation needed]

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. Venetian art in particular (along with arts from other parts of Europe), is ignored systematically in the first edition. Between his first and second editions, Vasari visited Venice and while the second edition gave more attention to Venetian art (finally including Titian), it did so without achieving a neutral point of view.[citation needed]

Many inaccuracies exist within his Lives. For example, Vasari writes that Andrea del Castagno killed Domenico Veneziano, which is incorrect, Andrea died several years before Domenico. In another example, Vasari's biography of Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, whom he calls "Il Soddoma", published only in the second edition of the Lives (1568) after Bazzi's death, condemns the artist as being immoral, bestial, and vain. Vasari dismisses Bazzi's work as lazy and offensive, despite the artist's having been named a Cavaliere di Cristo by Pope Leo X and having received important commissions for the Villa Farnese and other sites.[16]

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 that supposedly, the older master repeatedly tried to brush away, a genre tale that echoes anecdotes told of the Greek painter Apelles. 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 generation. Modern criticism – with new materials opened up by research – has corrected many of his traditional dates and attributions.[8]

Vasari includes a sketch of his own biography at the end of the Lives, and adds further details about him and his family in his lives of Lazzaro Vasari and Francesco Salviati.[8]

According to the historian Richard Goldthwaite,[17] Vasari was one of the earliest authors to use the term "competition" (or "concorrenza" in Italian) in its economic sense. He used it repeatedly, and stressed the concept in his introduction to the life of Pietro Perugino, in explaining the reasons for Florentine artistic preeminence. In Vasari's view, Florentine artists excelled because they were hungry, and they were hungry because their fierce competition amongst themselves for commissions kept them so. Competition, he said, is "one of the nourishments that maintain them".[citation needed]

Social standing

Vasari enjoyed high repute during his lifetime and amassed a considerable fortune. He married Niccolosa Bacci, a member of one of the richest and most prominent families of Arezzo. He was made Knight of the Golden Spur by the Pope. He was elected to the municipal council of his native town and finally, rose to the supreme office of gonfaloniere.[8]

He built a fine house in Arezzo in 1547 and decorated its walls and vaults with paintings. It is now a museum in his honour.[citation needed]

In 1563, he helped found the Florentine Accademia e Compagnia delle Arti del Disegno, with the Grand Duke and Michelangelo as capi of the institution. Thirty-six artists were chosen as members.[18]

Gallery

References and sources

References

  1. ^ "Vasari". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Vasari, Giorgio" (US) and "Vasari, Giorgio". Oxford Dictionaries UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. n.d. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  3. ^ "Vasari". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Vasari". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  5. ^ Michelet, Jules (1835). Histoire de France: Renaissance. VII. Paris.
  6. ^ a b Gaunt, W. (ed.) (1962) Everyman's dictionary of pictorial art. Volume II. London: Dent, p. 328. ISBN 0-460-03006-X
  7. ^ "Art in Tuscany | Giorgio Vasari and Italian Renaissance painting | Podere Santa Pia, Holiday house in the south of Tuscany". www.travelingintuscany.com. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Vasari, Giorgio". Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  9. ^ "Six Tuscan Poets, Giorgio Vasari". Minneapolis Institute of Art.
  10. ^ The History of Painting in Italy: The Florentine, Sienese, and Roman schools, by Luigi Lanzi, page 201-202.
  11. ^ "Vasari's ability as a painter cannot match his talents either as an historian or as an architect," according to Lawrence Gowing, ed., Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists, v.4 (Facts on File, 2005): 695.
  12. ^ Pevsner, N., A History of Building Types, Princeton University Press, 1979, pg. 235
  13. ^ The Christian Travelers Guide to Italy by David Bershad, Carolina Mangone, Irving Hexham 2001 ISBN 0-310-22573-6-page [1]
  14. ^ Vasari, Giorgio Dictionary of Art Historians, 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  15. ^ Vasari, Giorgio. (1907) Vasari on technique: being the introduction to the three arts of design, architecture, sculpture, and painting, prefixed to the Lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors, and architects. G. Baldwin Brown Ed. Louisa S. Maclehose Trans. London: Dent.
  16. ^ Zarucchi, Jeanne Morgan (2015). "Vasari's Biography of Bazzi as 'Soddoma:' Art History and Literary Analysis". Italian Studies. 70:2 (2): 167–190. doi:10.1179/0075163415Z.00000000094. S2CID 191976882.
  17. ^ Richard Goldthwaite, The Economy of Renaissance Florence, 2009, pg. 390.
  18. ^ Gauvin Alexander Bailey, 'Santi di Tito and the Florentine Academy: Solomon Building the Temple in the Capitolo of the Accademia del Disegno (1570–71)', Apollo CLV, 480 (February 2002): pp. 31–39.

Sources

Further reading

Copies of Vasari's Lives of the Artists online: