Giorgio Vasari

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Giorgio Vasari (1511-74), painter and architect, born near Florence, and employed by the powerful, Florentine family, the Medici. In 1550 and then in 1568 he wrote a multi-volume book, The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.
Vasari’s art historical narrative, seemingly a record of the lives of certain Renaissance artists, is the account of how art gradually achieved perfection, by building upon the achievements of the past in order to ultimately attain that perfection at the beginning of the 16th century. A process Vasari himself confirms in The Lives when he says, Having very carefully turned all this over in my mind, I have come to the conclusion that it is inherent in the very nature of these arts to progress step by step from modest beginnings, and finally to reach the summit of perfection.”
Vasari’s work was the first systematic history of art, and, as such, it represents an important milestone in the history of Renaissance art. It is important to recognize the structure he gave his book, for it is revealing about the kind of historical narrative that he wanted to create. Vasari wrote biographies of individual artists, thereby acknowledging the distinctive achievements of each. He then organized these separate lives into three distinct periods, introduced by prefaces in which he described the common characteristics of their artworks and also placed their work—as he sees it—into a larger narrative about what happens to art over time.
Vasari’s method for compiling this history of artists—by writing biographies of individuals, in which he describes their personalities, their achievements, and their genius—resembled the work of his contemporaries who wrote the histories of rulers, generals, or other influential people. Such an emphasis on the individual has been one of the traditional hallmarks of the Renaissance, used to demonstrate…...

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