Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects
Title page of the 1568 edition of the Vite
|Original title||Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori|
|Translator||E. L. Seeley|
|Publisher||Torrentino (1550), Giunti (1568)|
|1550 (enlarged 1568)|
Published in English
|Pages||369 (1550), 686 (1568)|
The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times, or Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori da Cimabue insino a' tempi nostri, as it was originally known in Italian, is a series of artist biographies written by 16th-century Italian painter and architect Giorgio Vasari, which is considered "perhaps the most famous, and even today the most-read work of the older literature of art", "some of the Italian Renaissance's most influential writing on art", and "the first important book on art history". The title is often abridged to the Vite or the Lives.
As the first Italian art historian, Vasari initiated the genre of an encyclopedia of artistic biographies that continues today. Vasari's work was first published in 1550 by Lorenzo Torrentino in Florence, and dedicated to Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. It included a valuable treatise on the technical methods employed in the arts. It was partly rewritten and enlarged in 1568 and provided with woodcut portraits of artists (some conjectural).
The work has a consistent and notorious favour of Florentines and tends to attribute to them all the new developments in Renaissance art—for example, the invention of engraving. Venetian art in particular, let alone other parts of Europe, is systematically ignored. Between his first and second editions, Vasari visited Venice and the second edition gave more attention to Venetian art (finally including Titian) without achieving a neutral point of view. John Symonds claimed in 1899 that, "It is clear that Vasari often wrote with carelessness, confusing dates and places, and taking no pains to verify the truth of his assertions" (in regards to Vasari's life of Nicola Pisano), while acknowledging that, despite these shortcomings, it is one of the basic sources for information on the Renaissance in Italy.
Vasari's biographies are interspersed with amusing gossip. Many of his anecdotes have the ring of truth, although likely inventions. Others are generic fictions, such as the tale of young Giotto painting a fly on the surface of a painting by Cimabue that 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 the immediately preceding one. Modern criticism—with all the new materials opened up by research—has corrected many of his traditional dates and attributions. The work is widely considered a classic even today, though it is widely agreed that it must be supplemented by modern critical research.
Vasari includes a forty-two-page sketch of his own biography at the end of his Vite, and adds further details about himself and his family in his lives of Lazzaro Vasari and Francesco de' Rossi.
Vasari's Vite has been described as "by far the most influential single text for the history of Renaissance art" and "the most important work of Renaissance biography of artists". Its influence is situated mainly in three domains: as an example for contemporary and later biographers and art historians, as a defining factor in the view on the Renaissance and the role of Florence and Rome in it, and as a major source of information on the lives and works of early Renaissance artists from Italy.
The Vite has been translated wholly or partially into many languages, including English, Dutch, German, Spanish, French and Russian.
Early translations became a model for others
The Vite formed a model for encyclopedias of artist biographies. Different 17th century translators became artist biographers in their own country of origin and were often called the Vasari of their country. Karel Van Mander was probably the first Vasarian author with his Painting book (Het Schilderboeck, 1604), which encompassed not only the first Dutch translation of Vasari, but also the first Dutch translation of Ovid and was accompanied by a list of Italian painters who appeared on the scene after Vasari, and the first comprehensive list of biographies of painters from the Low Countries. Similarly, Joachim von Sandrart, author of Deutsche Akademie (1675), became known as the "German Vasari" and Antonio Palomino, author of "An account of the lives and works of the most eminent Spanish painters, sculptors and architects" (1724), became the "Spanish Vasari". In England, Aglionby's Painting Illustrated from 1685 was largely based on Vasari as well.
View of the Renaissance
The Vite is also important as the basis for discussions about the development of style. It influenced the view art historians had of the Early Renaissance for a long time, placing too much emphasis on the achievements of Florentine and Roman artists while ignoring those of the rest of Italy and certainly the artists from the rest of Europe.
Source of information
Finally, it has also been for centuries the most important source of information on Early Renaissance Italian (and especially Tuscan) painters and the attribution of their paintings. In 1899, John Addington Symonds used the Vite as one of his basic sources for the description of artists in his seven books on the Renaissance in Italy, and nowadays it is still, despite its obvious biases and shortcomings, the basis for the biographies of many artists like Leonardo da Vinci.
The Vite contains the biographies of many important Italian artists, and is also adopted as a sort of classical reference guide for their names, which are sometimes used in different ways. The following list respects the order of the book, as divided into its three parts. The book starts with a dedication to Cosimo I de' Medici and a preface, and then starts with technical and background texts about architecture, sculpture, and painting. A second preface follows, introducing the actual "Vite" in parts 2 to 5. What follows is the complete list from the second (1568) edition. In a few cases, different very short biographies were given in one section.
- Arnolfo di Lapo, with Bonanno
- Nicola Pisano
- Giovanni Pisano
- Andrea Tafi
- Gaddo Gaddi
- Giotto, with Puccio Capanna
- Agostino and Agnolo
- Stefano and Ugolino
- Pietro Lorenzetti (Pietro Laurati)
- Andrea Pisano
- Buonamico Buffalmacco
- Ambrogio Lorenzetti (Ambruogio Laurati)
- Pietro Cavallini
- Simone Martini with Lippo Memmi
- Taddeo Gaddi
- Andrea Orcagna (Andrea di Cione)
- Tommaso Fiorentino (Giottino)
- Giovanni da Ponte
- Agnolo Gaddi with Cennino Cennini
- Berna Sanese (Barna da Siena)
- Antonio Viniziano (Antonio Veneziano)
- Jacopo di Casentino
- Spinello Aretino
- Gherardo Starnina
- Lorenzo Monaco
- Taddeo Bartoli
- Lorenzo di Bicci with Bicci di Lorenzo and Neri di Bicci
- Jacopo della Quercia
- Niccolo Aretino (Niccolò di Piero Lamberti)
- Dello (Dello di Niccolò Delli)
- Nanni di Banco
- Luca della Robbia with Andrea and Girolamo della Robbia
- Paolo Uccello
- Lorenzo Ghiberti with Niccolò di Piero Lamberti
- Masolino da Panicale
- Parri Spinelli
- Filippo Brunelleschi
- Michelozzo Michelozzi with Pagno di Lapo Portigiani
- Antonio Filarete and Simone (Simone Ghini)
- Giuliano da Maiano
- Piero della Francesca
- Fra Angelico with Domenico di Michelino and Attavante
- Leon Battista Alberti
- Lazaro Vasari
- Antonello da Messina
- Alesso Baldovinetti
- Vellano da Padova (Bartolomeo Bellano)
- Fra Filippo Lippi with Fra Diamante and Jacopo del Sellaio
- Paolo Romano, Mino del Reame, Chimenti Camicia, and Baccio Pontelli
- Andrea del Castagno and Domenico Veneziano
- Gentile da Fabriano
- Vittore Pisanello
- Pesello and Francesco Pesellino
- Benozzo Gozzoli with Melozzo da Forlì
- Francesco di Giorgio and Vecchietta (Lorenzo di Pietro)
- Galasso Ferrarese with Cosmè Tura
- Antonio and Bernardo Rossellino
- Desiderio da Settignano
- Mino da Fiesole
- Lorenzo Costa with Ludovico Mazzolino
- Ercole Ferrarese
- Jacopo, Giovanni and Gentile Bellini with Niccolò Rondinelli and Benedetto Coda
- Cosimo Rosselli
- Il Cecca (Francesco d’Angelo)
- Don Bartolomeo Abbate di S. Clemente (Bartolomeo della Gatta) with Matteo Lappoli
- Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora
- Domenico Ghirlandaio with Benedetto, David Ghirlandaio and Bastiano Mainardi
- Antonio Pollaiuolo and Piero Pollaiuolo with Maso Finiguerra
- Sandro Botticelli
- Benedetto da Maiano
- Andrea del Verrocchio with Benedetto and Santi Buglioni
- Andrea Mantegna
- Filippino Lippi
- Bernardino Pinturicchio with Niccolò Alunno and Gerino da Pistoia
- Francesco Francia with Caradosso (it)
- Pietro Perugino with Rocco Zoppo, Francesco Bacchiacca, Eusebio da San Giorgio and Andrea Aloigi (l'Ingegno)
- Vittore Scarpaccia with Stefano da Verona, Jacopo Avanzi, Altichiero, Jacobello del Fiore, Guariento di Arpo, Giusto de' Menabuoi, Vincenzo Foppa, Vincenzo Catena, Cima da Conegliano, Marco Basaiti, Bartolomeo Vivarini, Giovanni di Niccolò Mansueti, Vittore Belliniano, Bartolomeo Montagna, Benedetto Diana, Giovanni Buonconsiglio, Simone Bianco, Tullio Lombardo, Vincenzo Civerchio, Girolamo Romani, Alessandro Bonvicino (il Moretto), Francesco Bonsignori, Giovanni Francesco Caroto and Francesco Torbido (il Moro)
- Iacopo detto l'Indaco (Jacopo Torni)
- Luca Signorelli with Tommaso Bernabei (il Papacello)
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Giorgione da Castelfranco
- Antonio da Correggio
- Piero di Cosimo
- Donato Bramante (Bramante da Urbino)
- Fra Bartolomeo Di San Marco
- Mariotto Albertinelli
- Raffaellino del Garbo
- Pietro Torrigiano (Torrigiano)
- Giuliano da Sangallo
- Antonio da Sangallo
- Guillaume de Marcillat
- Simone del Pollaiolo (il Cronaca)
- Davide Ghirlandaio and Benedetto Ghirlandaio
- Domenico Puligo
- Andrea da Fiesole
- Vincenzo da San Gimignano and Timoteo da Urbino
- Andrea Sansovino (Andrea dal Monte Sansovino)
- Benedetto da Rovezzano
- Baccio da Montelupo and Raffaello da Montelupo (father and son)
- Lorenzo di Credi
- Boccaccio Boccaccino (Boccaccino Cremonese)
- Baldassare Peruzzi
- Pellegrino da Modena (Pellegrino Aretusi)
- Giovan Francesco, also known as il Fattore
- Andrea del Sarto
- Properzia de’ Rossi
- Alfonso Lombardi
- Michele Agnolo (Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli)
- Girolamo Santacroce
- Dosso Dossi and Battista Dossi (Dossi brothers)
- Giovanni Antonio Licino
- Rosso Fiorentino
- Giovanni Antonio Sogliani
- Girolamo da Treviso (Girolamo Da Trevigi)
- Polidoro da Caravaggio and Maturino da Firenze (Maturino Fiorentino)
- Bartolommeo Ramenghi (Bartolomeo Da Bagnacavallo)
- Marco Calabrese
- Morto Da Feltro
- Francesco Mazzola (Il Parmigianino)
- Jacopo Palma (Il Palma)
- Lorenzo Lotto
- Fra Gocondo
- Francesco Granacci
- Baccio d'Agnolo
- Valerio Vicentino (Valerio Belli), Giovanni da Castel Bolognese (Giovanni Bernardi) and Matteo dal Nasaro Veronese
- Marcantonio Bolognese
- Antonio da Sangallo
- Giulio Romano
- Sebastiano del Piombo (Sebastiano Viniziano)
- Perino Del Vaga
- Domenico Beccafumi
- Giovann'Antonio Lappoli
- Niccolò Soggi
- Niccolò detto il Tribolo
- Pierino da Vinci
- Baccio Bandinelli
- Giuliano Bugiardini
- Cristofano Gherardi
- Jacopo da Pontormo
- Simone Mosca
- Girolamo Genga, Bartolommeo Genga and Giovanbatista San Marino (Giovanni Battista Belluzzi)
- Michele Sanmicheli with Paolo Veronese (Paulino) and Paolo Farinati
- Giovannantonio detto il Soddoma da Verzelli
- Bastiano detto Aristotile da San Gallo
- Benedetto Garofalo and Girolamo da Carpi with Bramantino and Bernardino Gatti (il Soiaro)
- Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, Davide Ghirlandaio and Benedetto Ghirlandaio
- Giovanni da Udine
- Battista Franco with Jacopo Tintoretto
- Francesco Rustichi
- Fra' Giovann'Agnolo Montorsoli
- Francesco detto de' Salviati with Giuseppe Porta
- Daniello Ricciarelli da Volterra
- Taddeo Zucchero with Federico Zuccari
There have been numerous editions and translations of the Lives over the years. Many have been abridgements due to the great length of the original. The most recent new English translation is by Peter and Julia Conaway Bondanella, published in the Oxford World's Classics series in 1991.
Versions of the Lives of the Artists online
- “Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists.” Website created by Adrienne DeAngelis. Currently incomplete, intended to be unabridged, in English.
- Le Vite Selections of the 1568 edition (drawn from a 1768 reprint), in Italian.
- 1568 edition on Google Books Part III, v. 1 (from Leonardo to Perino del Vaga), in Italian
- Le Vite 1568 edition, Part III, v. 2 (from Beccafumi to Vasari), in Italian
- “Stories Of The Italian Artists From Vasari.” Translated by E L Seeley, 1908. Abridged, in English.
References and sources
- Max Marmor, Kunstliteratur, translated by Ernst Gombrich, in Art Documentation Vol 11 # 1, 1992
- "University of Leeds website". Webprod1.leeds.ac.uk. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- Murray, P. and L. Murray. (1963) The art of the renaissance. London: Thames & Hudson (World of Art), p. 8. ISBN 978-0-500-20008-7
- "Christopher Witcombe, Art History and Technology". Witcombe.sbc.edu. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- "Takuma Ito, Studies of Western Art No. 12, July 2007". Sangensha.co.jp. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- "John Addington Symonds, ''Renaissance in Italy,'' 1899, Vol. 3, Part 2". Fullbooks.com. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- Professor Hope, The Warburg Institute, course synopsis, 2007
- "Abstract from the transactions of the bibliographical society". Muse.jhu.edu. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- Elinor Richter, reviewing Philip Sohms study of style in the art theory :"Giorgio Vasari's Vite, the first edition of which was published in 1550, provides the foundation for any discussion of the development of style."
- Stephanie Leone, The Renaissance Society of Americ, 2007: "[...] the traditional definition of Renaissance art as the humanistic innovations of Florentine and Roman artists, to which Giorgio Vasari's Vite (1550, 1568) gave rise."
- "Full text of John Symonds' "Renaissance in Italy"". Gutenberg.org. 2004-03-13. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- "Bernard Barryte, The life of Leonardo da Vinci, University of Rochester Library Bulletin (1984)". Lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- 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.
- Vasari, G. The Lives of the Artists. Translated with an introduction and notes by J.C. and Peter Bondanella. Oxford: Oxford University Press (Oxford World’s Classics), 1991. ISBN 9780199537198
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