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The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and 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 The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and 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 just the Vite or the Lives. Contents: Cimabue Arnolfo di Lapo Nicola Pisano Giovanni Pisano Andrea Tafi Gaddo Gaddi Margaritone Giotto Agostino and Agnolo Stefano and Ugolino Pietro Lorenzetti Andrea Pisano Buonamico Buffalmacco Ambrogio Lorenzetti Pietro Cavallini Simone Martini Taddeo Gaddi Andrea Orcagna Tommaso Fiorentino Giovanni da Ponte Agnolo Gaddi Berna Sanese Duccio Antonio Viniziano Jacopo di Casentino Spinello Aretino Gherardo Starnina Lippo Lorenzo Monaco Taddeo Bartoli Lorenzo di Bicci Jacopo della Quercia Niccolo Aretino Dello Nanni di Banco Luca della Robbia Paolo Uccello Lorenzo Ghiberti Masolino da Panicale Parri Spinelli Masaccio Filippo Brunelleschi Donatello Michelozzo Michelozzi Antonio Filarete Giuliano da Maiano Piero della Francesca Fra Angelico Leon Battista Alberti Lazaro Vasari Antonello da Messina Alesso Baldovinetti Vellano da Padova Fra Filippo Lippi Gentile da Fabriano Vittore Pisanello Pesello and Francesco Pesellino Benozzo Gozzoli Francesco di Giorgio Galasso Ferrarese Desiderio da Settignano Mino da Fiesole Lorenzo Costa Ercole Ferrarese Cosimo Rosselli Il Cecca Sandro Botticelli Benedetto da Maiano Andrea Mantegna Filippino Lippi Giorgio Vasari …


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The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and 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 The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and 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 just the Vite or the Lives. Contents: Cimabue Arnolfo di Lapo Nicola Pisano Giovanni Pisano Andrea Tafi Gaddo Gaddi Margaritone Giotto Agostino and Agnolo Stefano and Ugolino Pietro Lorenzetti Andrea Pisano Buonamico Buffalmacco Ambrogio Lorenzetti Pietro Cavallini Simone Martini Taddeo Gaddi Andrea Orcagna Tommaso Fiorentino Giovanni da Ponte Agnolo Gaddi Berna Sanese Duccio Antonio Viniziano Jacopo di Casentino Spinello Aretino Gherardo Starnina Lippo Lorenzo Monaco Taddeo Bartoli Lorenzo di Bicci Jacopo della Quercia Niccolo Aretino Dello Nanni di Banco Luca della Robbia Paolo Uccello Lorenzo Ghiberti Masolino da Panicale Parri Spinelli Masaccio Filippo Brunelleschi Donatello Michelozzo Michelozzi Antonio Filarete Giuliano da Maiano Piero della Francesca Fra Angelico Leon Battista Alberti Lazaro Vasari Antonello da Messina Alesso Baldovinetti Vellano da Padova Fra Filippo Lippi Gentile da Fabriano Vittore Pisanello Pesello and Francesco Pesellino Benozzo Gozzoli Francesco di Giorgio Galasso Ferrarese Desiderio da Settignano Mino da Fiesole Lorenzo Costa Ercole Ferrarese Cosimo Rosselli Il Cecca Sandro Botticelli Benedetto da Maiano Andrea Mantegna Filippino Lippi Giorgio Vasari …

30 review for Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects: Illustrated - Biographies of the Greatest Artists of Renaissance, Including Leonardo da ... Giotto, Raphael, Brunelleschi & Donatello

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    This 2005 Dover edition is an abridged version of a 1967 two volume edition of Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, often called today Lives of the Artists, or just “Vasari’s Lives”. The translation used is that of Mrs. Jonathan Foster (1851). The artists included are Giotto, Masaccio, Fra Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian. These eight artists are covered in less than 250 pages. Of the eight lives, that of Michelan This 2005 Dover edition is an abridged version of a 1967 two volume edition of Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, often called today Lives of the Artists, or just “Vasari’s Lives”. The translation used is that of Mrs. Jonathan Foster (1851). The artists included are Giotto, Masaccio, Fra Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian. These eight artists are covered in less than 250 pages. Of the eight lives, that of Michelangelo takes up over 100 pages. In the review, I'll use the book’s shortest chapter, on Sandro Botticelli, for examples. Strengths The book is extremely interesting, in parts. When the work was first published in Florence in 1550, Michelangelo and Titian were still living, and Botticelli, Leonardo, and Raphael had all died only 30-40 years previously. (The earliest of these artists, Giotto, had died in 1337, over two centuries prior to Vasari's work.) To read the views of these artists' lives and works written by someone this close in time to them, someone who was himself immersed in the culture of the Italian Renaissance, can be intoxicating. There’s no doubt of the historic importance of the book. It was the first history of art ever written, and though it only treated Italian art (and even there tended to favor somewhat chauvinistically Florentine artists), the Introduction to the book makes many favorable points about it. The minute descriptions of hundreds of works of art, though elementary, “laid the groundwork” for many of the elements of art history – “the development of compositional structure and the manipulation of color, the analysis of the meaning of changes in style and subject matter” - which were to be taken up by later historians. (view spoiler)[Though my edition does not specifically credit the Introduction to anyone, I assume it was written by the editor of the 1967 edition, and eminent art historian, Marilyn Aronberg Lavin. (hide spoiler)] And the prominence of Lives in the title, instead of something like “works”, or “paintings”, points to one of its strengths: not only do we read short biographies of the artists as introductions to each essay, but more biographical data appears repeatedly throughout. This is still a feature of modern popular articles or books on artists. (As distinct from thick academic books on art history, which focus more on the art than the artist, if I can put it that way.) For example, in the 8 page chapter on Botticelli, we read that Botticelli had been paid a large sum for the paintings he executed in the recently built Sistine Chapel in the early 1480s. Vasari continuesbut this [sum] he consumed and squandered totally during his residence in Rome, where he lived without due care, as was his habit. Having completed the work assigned to him, he returned at once to Florence, where, being whimsical and eccentric, he occupied himself with commenting on a certain part of Dante, illustrating the Inferno and executing prints, over which he wasted much time; and neglecting his proper occupation, he did no work, and thereby caused infinite disorder in his affairs.Finally, each chapter is illustrated with a plate (unattributed). For Botticelli, we have this. Weaknesses Here’s one of the paintings, actually a large fresco, that Botticelli did in the Sistine Chapel. The Temptations of Christ (1480-82) 345×555 cm (136×219 in) Vasari refers to this work as “The Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness’. Since the fresco obviously shows (on the left, center and right of the upper part) the three Biblical temptations, one might wonder whether Vasari ever saw the fresco, or had forgot what he’d seen when he wrote. This example illustrates that, in trying to look up a painting described or named by Vasari, it can be confusing to figure out what he’s referring to - unless you’re reading an edition in which the translator has done this work for the reader, or perhaps an editor has added an explanatory note. Another problem is again related to our modern views of these Renaissance works of art, and is also illustrated in the Botticelli article. Here are probably the two most famous paintings (now) by Botticelli. The Birth of Venus (mid 1480s) 172x279 cm (68×110 in) Primavera (~1482) 202×314 cm (80×124 in) And here’s what Vasari says of them:For different houses in various parts of [Florence], Sandro painted many pictures of a round form, with numerous figures of women undraped. Of these there are still two examples at Castello, a villa of the Duke Cosimo, one representing the birth of Venus, who is borne to earth by the Loves and Zephyrs: the second also representing the figure of Venus crowned with flowers by the Graces; she is here intended to denote the Spring, and the allegory is expressed by the painter with extraordinary grace.That’s it. But, not only is this description quite unlikely to convey anything useful to a reader about what the paintings actually look like, but the way the first sentence reads, it seems to imply that the pictures are of a “round form”; or at best it’s ambiguous. In the increasingly secular centuries since Vasari wrote, these paintings have come to overshadow Botticelli’s other works - to such an extent that in the book I have of the history of art (History of Art), the author devotes all four pages on Botticelli to nothing but these paintings. And what he says about them is immensely interesting. Finally, the last problem I had with this book is that Vasari gives many long (long!) lists of art works described in (excruciating) detail, that I found pretty boring to read, especially since the book (not surprisingly) contained no pictures of the art. My personal verdict The first of the above weaknesses is perhaps excusable; the second is certainly hard to blame Vasari for; and the third could be helped quite a bit by a copiously illustrated edition. It’s likely the case that most every professional art historian has their own copy of Vasari; but it would be used as a reference book, not pleasure reading. For the modern reader interested in Renaissance art, Vasari’s Lives is probably not the best choice. But still … that gossipy, judgmental, perhaps even inaccurate personal stuff about the artists can be very interesting, and, yes, pleasurable to read. One just has to be prepared to skip or skim when the going gets tough. Not a good history of art – but still a worthwhile recounting of the Lives of the artists. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Random review: Samuel Johnson Is Indignant Lydia Davis short fiction Next review: Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. Two B Previous library review: Pablo Picasso a retrospective Next library review: Cathedral The Story of Its Construction

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    Men of genius sometimes accomplish most when they work the least, for they are thinking out inventions and forming in their minds the perfect idea that they subsequently express with their hands. ― Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects I normally don't gravitate towards abridged books, but Vasari's 'The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects' is a book that needs to be: 1) read by art history experts in its entirety (2000+ pag Men of genius sometimes accomplish most when they work the least, for they are thinking out inventions and forming in their minds the perfect idea that they subsequently express with their hands. ― Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects I normally don't gravitate towards abridged books, but Vasari's 'The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects' is a book that needs to be: 1) read by art history experts in its entirety (2000+ pages), 2) picked through periodically, like an encyclopedic “Garden of Delights”, 3) read abridged, in a version that focuses on the Renaissance's best (Vasari was interested in distinguishing the better from the good and the best from the better). My time here is limited. I only have so much time for the good. In my brief life here I want to hang with the Gods not with the minor prophets. I want Michelangelo not Niccolò Soggi. Sorry Niccolò. The Modern Library/Gaston du C. de Vere translation, was a great version. It had all the Teenage Ninja Mutant Renaissance artists, but still provided plenty of architects, sculptures and painters that I was either completely uninformed about or lacked much knowledge. Vasari has a natural narrative momentum, even if he does sometimes lose his narrative genius when he's consumed with listing and describing all of an artists works. It is a fine balancing act, to try and describe the artists' life, work, and importance and make the essay complete, without making the piece a laundry list of oil and marble. One final note. This is one of those books that seems destined to become an amazing hypertext book or app. There were times while reading it I wished I was reading a digital copy that would provide links to pictures, blue prints, smoothly rotating statues, etc. What I wanted was a through the looking-glass, artist's version of The Elements app by Theodore Gray. I want a multiverse of art, history, maps and blueprints. I want to fall into a hypertext of Renaissance Florence and Rome. Audiobooks or paper just fail to do justice to this beautiful subject.

  3. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    I think I’m actually reading the unabridged version, which is sooooo much longer than this version.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    An artist lives and acquires fame through his works; but with the passing of time, which consumes everything, these works—the first, then the second, and the third—fade away. After Plutarch’s Lives, Vasari’s Lives of the Artists is likely the most iconic collection of biographies of famous men. He published two editions of the book, the first in 1550, the second in 1568; and both found success in Vasari’s lifetime and have continued to sell well ever since. In life Vasari was a typical Renais An artist lives and acquires fame through his works; but with the passing of time, which consumes everything, these works—the first, then the second, and the third—fade away. After Plutarch’s Lives, Vasari’s Lives of the Artists is likely the most iconic collection of biographies of famous men. He published two editions of the book, the first in 1550, the second in 1568; and both found success in Vasari’s lifetime and have continued to sell well ever since. In life Vasari was a typical Renaissance man, achieving fame for his paintings (he decorated the Palazzo Vecchio) and his architecture (he was responsible for the loggia of the Uffizi), in addition to his work as a biographer. Granted, his paintings are not highly regarded nowadays (though many are pleasing enough to my eyes); but this posthumous verdict did not prevent him from making a fine living. And when you write the first book of art history in the history of art, the rest hardly matters. The edition I own is highly abridged, as are nearly all popular versions, since the original contains dozens upon dozens of painters, sculptors, and architects—most of whom the casual reader does not know of or care for. This explains why most of the Lives are so short. Indeed, fans of any particular Renaissance artist are liable to be disappointed by Vasari’s treatment. He runs through Sandro Botticelli in all of ten pages, for example, barely pausing to mention the Birth of Venus. Indeed, many of these biographies are hardly biographies at all, just extended catalogues of works. This is certainly useful for the art historian (though Vasari made many mistakes) but it does not make for electrifying reading. The modern psychoanalyzing mode of artistic biographies was, of course, entirely alien to Vasari, and he seems to regard the artist’s personality as a source of gossip but not of insight. This does not prevent him from including many good stories. Like Plutarch himself, Vasari is rich in anecdote—and, as in Plutarch, half of them are probably false. Fact or fiction, however, a good story is preferable to a dry fact. We hear of Cimabue agreeing to take on Giotto as a pupil, after seeing the young boy scratching on a stone; or of Paolo Uccello staying up long nights to work on problems of perspective. Whether these stories help us to understand the paintings is doubtful; but they do help to bring alive this amazing time in history. Vasari begins the book with a sketch of the history of art as he understood it. His opinion is not a masterpiece of subtlety. In essence, the Greeks and Romans understood that art begins by copying nature, and so produced excellent works; then art fell into barbarism (Vasari coined the term “gothic” to describe medieval art) in which the ancient knowledge was lost and artists had no knowledge of proper technique; finally the painter Giotto came and revived the arts, inaugurating a process that culminated in the works of Michelangelo. I must say that this view, though little more than naked prejudice, is at least refreshing in Vasari’s conviction that art was ascending and culminating in his own epoch. (Most of us are disposed to think it is declining.) It is striking that Michelangelo’s historic importance was understood even during his own lifetime. This was not an age of poor Van Goghs working in lonely shacks. The great artists were recognized and rewarded when they lived; and younger artists were seen to have surpassed their masters—novel concepts in our romantic age. The Life of Michelangelo, whom Vasari knew and worshipped, is by far the longest and forms the core of this collection. Indeed, all the other lives can be seen as mere leadup to the great Florentine, who fulfils all the promise of former ages. Vasari here turns from chronicler to hagiographer, praising Michelangelo with every breath. You might even say that Vasari turns into quite the Boswell, including various bits of Michelangelo’s conversation, and also several letters written to him by the great artist, as if to prove that Michelangelo really was his friend. All this makes for good reading, even if the worshipful tone is grating. The second longest Life in my collection is that of another Florentine (Vasari was a fierce patriot of his home city), Filippo Brunelleschi. This life is perhaps even better than that of Michelangelo, as Vasari charts the squabbles and drama behind the scenes of Brunelleschi’s dome. Vasari’s style is easygoing and almost conversational, and the pages go by quickly. He strikes me as a man full of shallow opinions but of a generous mind and a steady judgment. This book—full of errors, lacking any historical context, and greatly out of step with modern opinion—could hardly be read as a standalone volume on Renaissance painting. But every book on the subject borrows, knowingly or unknowingly, from Vasari, who has given bread to scholars and delight to readers for generations with this charming book. I have endeavored not only to record what the artists have done but to distinguish between the good, the better, and the best, and to note with some care the methods, manners, styles, behavior, and ideas of the painters and sculptors; I have tried as well as I know how to help people who cannot find out for themselves to understand the sources and origins of various styles, and the reasons for the improvement or decline of the arts at various times and among different people.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Myles

    Interesting to read about all the works that no longer exist. Also really useful in that it makes these larger-than-life artists at least semi-human. Lots of moments like this: "Then Michaelangelo made a model in wax of a young David with a sling in his hand, and began to work in S. Maria del Fiore, setting up a hoarding round the marble, and working at it continually without any seeing it until he had brought it to perfection. Master Simone had so spoilt the marble that in some places there was Interesting to read about all the works that no longer exist. Also really useful in that it makes these larger-than-life artists at least semi-human. Lots of moments like this: "Then Michaelangelo made a model in wax of a young David with a sling in his hand, and began to work in S. Maria del Fiore, setting up a hoarding round the marble, and working at it continually without any seeing it until he had brought it to perfection. Master Simone had so spoilt the marble that in some places there was not enough left for Michaelangelo's purpose, and certainly it was a miracle restoring thus one that was dead. When Piero Soderini saw it, it pleased him much, but he said to Michaelangelo, who was engaged in retouching it in certain places, that he thought the nose was too thick. Michaelangelo, perceiving that the Gonfaloniere was below the statue, and could not see it truly, to satisfy him went up the scaffold, taking a chisel in his left hand with a little marble dust, and began to work with his chisel, letting a little dust fall now and then, but not touching the nose. Then looking down to the Gonfaloniere, who was watching, he said, "Look at it now." "It pleases me better," said the Gonfaloniere; "you have given it life." So Michaelangelo came down pitying those who make a show of understanding matters about which they really know nothing." I'm into it, especially the lives of Masaccio and Fra Angelico.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Falk

    "But what inflicted incomparably greater damage and loss on the arts than the things we have mentioned [Constantine’s move to Byzantium, invasions, etc.] was the fervent enthusiasm of the new Christian religion. After long and bloody combat, Christianity, aided by a host of miracles and the burning sincerity of its adherents, defeated and wiped out the old faith of the pagans. Then with great fervour and diligence it strove to cast out and utterly destroy every last possible occasion of sin; and "But what inflicted incomparably greater damage and loss on the arts than the things we have mentioned [Constantine’s move to Byzantium, invasions, etc.] was the fervent enthusiasm of the new Christian religion. After long and bloody combat, Christianity, aided by a host of miracles and the burning sincerity of its adherents, defeated and wiped out the old faith of the pagans. Then with great fervour and diligence it strove to cast out and utterly destroy every last possible occasion of sin; and in doing so it ruined or demolished all the marvellous statues, besides the other sculptures, the pictures, mosaics and ornaments representing the false pagan gods; and as well as this it destroyed countless memorials and inscriptions left in honour of illustrious persons who had been commemorated by the genius of the ancient world in statues and other public adornments. Moreover, in order to construct churches for their own services the Christians destroyed the sacred temples of the pagan idols. To embellish and and heighten the original magnificence of St Peter’s they despoiled of its stone columns the mausoleum of Hadrian (today called Castel Sant’Angelo) and they treated in the same way many buildings whose ruins still exist. These things were done by the Christians not out of hatred for the arts but in order to humiliate and overthrow the pagan gods. Nevertheless, their tremendous zeal was responsible for inflicting severe damage on the practice of the arts, which then fell into total confusion." - From Vasari’s Preface (pp. 36-7) Vasari may have taken his cue from Petrarch, who wrote in his poem Africa, written in 1338, a year after he first visited Rome, addressing the poem itself: "for you, if you should long outlive me, as my soul hopes and wishes, there is perhaps a better age in store; this slumber of forgetfulness will not last forever. After the darkness has been dispelled, our grandsons will be able to walk back into the pure radiance of the past." A century after Petrarch, Leon Battista Alberti, the pioneer of Renaissance art theory, wrote in On Painting (De pictura) along similar lines as Vasari would do another century later: "I used to marvel and at the same time to grieve that so many excellent and superior arts and sciences from our most vigorous antique past could now seem lacking and almost wholly lost. We know from [remaining] works and through references to them that they were once widespread. Painters, sculptors, architects, musicians, geometricians, rhetoricians, seers and similar noble and amazing intellects are very rarely found today and there are few to praise them. (...) It must be admitted that it was less difficult for the Ancients--because they had models to imitate and from which they could learn--to come to a knowledge of those supreme arts which today are most difficult for us. Our fame ought to be much greater, then, if we discover unheard-of and never-before-seen arts and sciences without teachers or without any model whatsoever. Who could ever be hard or envious enough to fail to praise Pippo the architect on seeing here such a large structure, rising above the skies, ample to cover with its shadow all the Tuscan people, and constructed without the aid of centering or great quantity of wood? (...) if I judge rightly, it was probably unknown and unthought of among the Ancients. But there will be other places, Filippo, to tell of your fame, of the virtues of our Donato [Donatello], and of the others who are most pleasing to me by their deeds." - Alberti, On Painting, Prologue addressed to Filippo Brunelleschi (1435) Vasari thought of the achievements in art and architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans as a Golden Age, and that of the Medieval period which followed as a period of decline. (He hated Gothic art and architecture – that’s also why he chose the term "Gothic" – it was about the worst term he could think of, and he used it as a synonym for "barbaric"...) With the gradual rediscovery of the ancient works of art ("those which were produced in Corinth, Athens, Rome, and other famous cities, before the time of Constantine"), he sees a new beginning: "helped by some subtle influence in the very air of Italy, the new generations started to purge their minds of the grossness of the past so successfully that in 1250 the heaven took pity on the talented men who were being born in Tuscany [Cimabue et al.] and led them back to the pristine forms. Before then, during the years after Rome was sacked and devastadted and swept by fire, men had been able to see the remains of arches and colossi, statues, pillars and carved columns; but until the period we are discussing they had no idea how to use or profit from this fine work." (p. 45) The Lives consists of three parts. Vasari writes in his Preface to Part Two: "I have divided the artists into three sections or, shall we say, periods, each with its own recognizably distinct character, running from the time of the rebirth of the arts up to our own times." The first part includes Cimabue and Giotto – artists that "mark a new beginning, opening the way for the better work which followed. (...) Then in the second period there was clearly a considerable improvement in invention and execution, with more design, better style, and a more careful finish." (Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Alberti, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, etc.) - This is followed by the third period when "art has achieved everything possible in the imitation of nature and has progressed so far that is thas more reason to fear slipping back than to expect ever to make further advances." (pp. 84-5) The third part includes all the giants of Renaissance art. Leonardo, Giorgione, Correggio, Raphael, Michelangelo and Titian have been selected for this edition. The Life of Michelangelo is the longest by far, and Vasari was proud of being able to call himself his friend. Michelangelo wasn’t all that happy about everything Vasari wrote. Possibly he considered Vasari most of all a useful contact between himself and Duke Cosimo de' Medici in Florence while he was working in Rome – and later he asked his friend Ascanio Condivi to write about his life and to correct some of the things Vasari had got wrong. I haven’t read Condivi’s Vita yet, but I enjoyed Vasari’s account in spite of Michelangelo’s objections to it. In fact I found even his gushing over Michelangelo both amusing and understandable, and by then I had gotten used to Vasari’s style and knew his strengths and weaknesses, so I had no problem bearing with him. – Anyway, Vasari later revised his account of Michelangelo based on that of Condivi, and he provides a wealth of information. The revised and enlarged edition of the Lives was published in 1568, and it is selections from this later edition that has been translated here. George Bull writes in his Introduction: “The letters of introduction to Cosimo for the 1550 and 1568 editions of the Lives echo in the obsequiousness other letters addressed by artists and writers to the Medici – notably Machiavelli’s letter to Cosimo’s father, Lorenzo, at the head of The Prince: the humble posture adopted in these dedications reflected perhaps, standard modes of address as much as genuine servility. More interesting is the manner in which both Machiavelli and Vasari interpreted political and art history, respectively, in terms of inevitable progression and decline and yet, paradoxically, suggested that the decline could be arrested by genius, by the virtù of a political leader or artist, endowed by nature with great ability and taught to emulate the perfection reached in the past. This affirmation of virtù has been called the ‘fundamental theme of the Lives’.” (p. 15) “In their entirety, the Lives may fairly be called a work of art. On one great canvas Vasari painted a harmonious and glowing composition which sustains with ease the task of conveying the revolutionary nature of of what happened in Italian art between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. He lifted the story of Tuscan art (...) to the plane of the heroic, stretching back to the quasi-legendary figures of Cimabue and Giotto, and forward to the inspired Michelangelo...” (p. 16) As Bull also writes, it can get a bit boring at times, but you keep reading because when he really likes a piece of art, Vasari’s enthusiasm often gives his style a lift and makes him write with flair. And there are endless examples of that in this book. He’s also emphatically Florence-centric, which gets kind of entertaining, especially as the book progresses. And Vasari provides plenty of amusing anecdotes and gossip, so that this in a way makes up for the occasional parts where the writing just drags along. - There’s e.g. the story of Giotto’s O, and of how Brunelleschi, to illustrate how his dome could be self-supporting, made an egg stand upright on a slab of marble by hitting one end of the egg hard against it, and later how he feigned illness to expose the fact that Lorenzo Ghiberti (who received the same pay) was not competent to take over the work on the dome in his absence. Stories and anecdotes you may have read before, but this is where they are first told. There’s also this great anecdote about Michelangelo: "When he saw the David in place [at the entrance to the Palazzo della Signoria] Piero Soderini was delighted; but while Michelangelo was retouching it he remarked that he though the nose was too thick. Michelangelo noticing that Gonfalonier was standing beneath the Giant and that from where he was he could not see the figure properly, to satisfy him climbed on the scaffolding by the shoulders, seized hold of a chisel in his left hand, together with some of the marble dust lying on the planks, and as he tapped lightly with the chisel let the dust fall little by little, without altering anything. Then he looked down at the Gonfalonier, who had stopped to watch, and said: 'Now look at it.' 'Ah, that’s much better,' replied Soderini. 'Now you’ve really brought it to life.' And then Michelangelo climbed down, feeling sorry for those critics who talk nonsense in the hope of appearing well informed.” (p. 338-9) The Renaissance gave birth to great art (among other things), and also to the first art-history. Vasari was even the first to use the term Renaissance (rinascita) in print. One of his preoccupations was disegno: drawing and making preparatory sketches was something he saw as being of prime importance for a painter. I can agree with this to a large degree, but this and other preoccupations could make him unjust towards some painters. He also at times makes mistakes when describing paintings, getting them mixed up, etc. - possibly because he hadn’t actually seen them, but had to rely on hearsay. These are facts that doesnt really diminish his accomplishment with the Lives, because for a large part his aesthetic judgement was acute and to the point. Nevertheless it is a pity that because he was seen as an authority for such a long period of time, many of these mistakes were perpetuated, a few even into our own times. But however that may be, by delving into Vasari's Lives you’re bound to add something new to your knowledge about most of the great artists he has written about – and not the least do you get to know the art world of the early 16th century quite intimately as seen through the eyes of Vasari. For me this was not a book to simply read straight through - I've been taking my time and mostly enjoying bite-size chunks of it and letting the book rest for a while in between readings. These are all the major artists and architects of the period between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries after all In this edition, George Bull has made his selection from the top shelf. Now I'll have to get hold of the second volume of his excellent translation of the Lives as well.. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tau

    Didn't hate it, didn't love it. It felt repetitive after the 200th page and it became more about finishing rather than learning about Renaissance artists.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emma Iadanza

    I absolutely love the Renaissance. The history, the art, the literature, everything. I find it fascinating and amazing. And windows into the history, like this book, are amazing. And, indeed, this book was wonderful. Vasari was architect to Duke Cosimo I de' Medici- he built the Uffizi gallery, the Vasari Corridor, and did various paintings and such, including the interior of the Duomo and also some portrait. I personally do not love all of his art. In any case, he was also the first art historia I absolutely love the Renaissance. The history, the art, the literature, everything. I find it fascinating and amazing. And windows into the history, like this book, are amazing. And, indeed, this book was wonderful. Vasari was architect to Duke Cosimo I de' Medici- he built the Uffizi gallery, the Vasari Corridor, and did various paintings and such, including the interior of the Duomo and also some portrait. I personally do not love all of his art. In any case, he was also the first art historian, and I highly respect that. He spent a lot of time going around looking for information for this book of his. And I'm very grateful - because some of the little anecdotes he wrote in here are hilarious. It was quite amusing. But th ecomplete thing is so intensely long (some 2000 pages I believe in full) that people never print it in its entirety! Thus I've spent months looking for a good edition - I have one that's falling apart that I bought in Rome, and every time I open it I have an allergy attack. And then I found this edition at Strand in Manhattan. It's pretty old (and out of print), but it has a good selection of the artists that I like. The introduction was good and the translation was easily legible. In any case, you have to take the rest of the book with a grain of salt. He gets a lot of his dates and details wrong - either that, or he was just really bad at math (which I slightly doubt). His ideas on the origins of art are fascinating. His writing style was just fine - but I forgive him because it's a translation, and he was an artist not a philosopher. But each Life follows a formula - general statement + list of everything the artist has ever done + cute anecdotes about their life. I expected it to be more of a biography than a catalog. But ... sometimes he contradicts himself and it annoys me. For example - "Giotto was the best artist ever!" and then 50 pages later "Giotto was horrible, he got everything wrong." Also, he sometimes spoke in the 3rd person about himself, which I found weird. (He also doted so much on Michelangelo that I had to skip half of that section because I couldn't stand it anymore.) My favorite life, by far, was that of Brunelleschi. It was very amusing. In any case - I highly suggest this book to anyone who even remotely likes Renaissance art. It is fun and amusing - and you can choose to read only a few of the selections, rather than the whole thing !

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beth Mayfield-House

    My undergraduate degree is in Art History so I've read my fair share of Art History books. It was interesting to me the way he presented artists which was very different than any Art History book I've ever read. Most Modern Art Historians tell you why the artist is important and what he or she did for art but I've never heard it said that this artist's work was so beautiful that you wonder if he is human or if his hand was touched by God -- That's how Vasari presents the artists. He puts a lot o My undergraduate degree is in Art History so I've read my fair share of Art History books. It was interesting to me the way he presented artists which was very different than any Art History book I've ever read. Most Modern Art Historians tell you why the artist is important and what he or she did for art but I've never heard it said that this artist's work was so beautiful that you wonder if he is human or if his hand was touched by God -- That's how Vasari presents the artists. He puts a lot of his own opinion in the biography of these artists and their works. I really enjoyed reading his opinion because by the third artist I realized that sometimes Vasari's opinion of what was great art was completely different than my own opinions. It made me think that maybe it's because so much has happened in art through the centuries that time and modernism may have changed the way we look at art. It was very interesting. I even read all of the biography of Michalangelo even though he wasn't my favorite artist to begin with, Vasari loved him so much that I think I like Michaelangelo better now. I also re-discovered some artists such as Antonio da Corregio and Andrea Mantegna, who I forgot about, though I do not know why.

  10. 4 out of 5

    AB

    Overall, I quite enjoyed the varied lives depicted by Vasari. However, the more impactful point that I took from this book is Vasari's theories on the development of art. His prefaces are slightly long winded but they are the parts in which he sets forth his idea of the decline of art and it's eventual rebirth from Cimabue to Titian. My only issues with the book are centred around the translators. I normally don't have an issue with an older style of English but I honestly found this translation Overall, I quite enjoyed the varied lives depicted by Vasari. However, the more impactful point that I took from this book is Vasari's theories on the development of art. His prefaces are slightly long winded but they are the parts in which he sets forth his idea of the decline of art and it's eventual rebirth from Cimabue to Titian. My only issues with the book are centred around the translators. I normally don't have an issue with an older style of English but I honestly found this translation irksome and incredibly long winded at points. Phrases could have easily been updated by the editor. There is no translators note so I'm not aware of whether or not this is a special or famous translation. It's such a shame because I was loving the narratives. Besides this the editor provided good footnotes but bizzarely did not include any for Vasari's descriptions of the Academy of Florence. He obviously put a lot of effort into the 200+ pages for the other parts of the book and I sorely missed it in this part.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    I read most of this when I was in college, studying art history. For fun. And maybe to impress my professor because I was taking a survey course of Italian Renaissance art. I got the 4 volume set from the library and read the whole first volume, parts of the 2nd and 3rd and the pretty much all of volume 4 which was almost entirely about Michelangelo because Vasari was one of his BFF's. It's fun if you're into art history or if you're interested in totally non-objective information on art and arti I read most of this when I was in college, studying art history. For fun. And maybe to impress my professor because I was taking a survey course of Italian Renaissance art. I got the 4 volume set from the library and read the whole first volume, parts of the 2nd and 3rd and the pretty much all of volume 4 which was almost entirely about Michelangelo because Vasari was one of his BFF's. It's fun if you're into art history or if you're interested in totally non-objective information on art and artists.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    Visari is not the most articulate art critic, but this book is worth reading for some of the anecdotes. Highlights include Michaelangelo throwing wooden planks at the Pope for sneaking a look at his work.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bill Gusky

    If you care about art it's a must-read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    This is my first candidate for the "what if you were marooned on a desert island" list.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Withun

    -

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anu

    More about artists than art, this book is a fascinating compendium of artists over a 250 year period, documenting how they worked and lived. While there are some curious vignettes of artists illustrating their eccentricity and passion, the parts of the book I loved beat were the parts where Vasari describes the artists’ love of art. How it moves, occupies and elevates artists in powerful ways. Any crafts person, including those of us in technology is likely to find this touching and inspirationa More about artists than art, this book is a fascinating compendium of artists over a 250 year period, documenting how they worked and lived. While there are some curious vignettes of artists illustrating their eccentricity and passion, the parts of the book I loved beat were the parts where Vasari describes the artists’ love of art. How it moves, occupies and elevates artists in powerful ways. Any crafts person, including those of us in technology is likely to find this touching and inspirational. I sure wish the book had actual illustrations to go with descriptions of the artists’ work. Also, it was a bonus to learn that the author was an artist himself, that lived during the time of Michelangelo! Cool read overall.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    i just love to see ye olde man pop off at each other about pigment sourcing, sexual proclivities, and noble patrons. it always manages to be hilarious, informative, and puts matters into perspective considering that few but the very haute academic care today if Luigi Bruccio or somesuch lad preferred to play catcher rather than pitcher.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This book is chock full of information of the artists of the Renaissance. I only read sections of it, mostly pertaining to artists whose work I had recently seen on a trip to Florence. It's a bit dry, as in, the artist was born, he did this, then he did that, then he died. It does give a good look at how the artists were perceived in their lifetimes for those who are truly invested in this topic.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zoë🔮

    (Read the introduction and first book, but i’m counting it haha)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rose Eccua

    This book is very amazing!!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Castles

    When you hold this book on your hand (or in your Kindle!), just remember what a privilege it is to google every artist while reading the chapters and seeing the beautiful art Vasari is writing about. a privilege deprived of generations of people reading this old book in the past, who could only guess what the works he describes actually looked like. Giotto’s perfect O, Brunelleschi challenging competitive architects on how to balance an egg, Raphael convincing the pope to give Michelangelo the j When you hold this book on your hand (or in your Kindle!), just remember what a privilege it is to google every artist while reading the chapters and seeing the beautiful art Vasari is writing about. a privilege deprived of generations of people reading this old book in the past, who could only guess what the works he describes actually looked like. Giotto’s perfect O, Brunelleschi challenging competitive architects on how to balance an egg, Raphael convincing the pope to give Michelangelo the job to paint the vault of the Sistine Chapel in hope he would fail, only to end up creating the best painting in history... whether true or not, these anecdotes are now magical myths going through the generations, and I loved the way is romantically writing about. Not just a collection of biographies, Vasari is surprisingly a good storyteller as well, finding the connections and continuity between the artists and along the years and the development in the arts. This book took me a relatively long time to finish. It is far from neutral and Vasari’s judgment is sometimes obviously (more on that in the film I recommend at the end of this review). Of course, it can get boring at times when reading of an artist you never heard about and going through long passages on his work, and from what I understand, this edited version doesn’t even include all the artists he wrote about. but the language (or translation) is surprisingly fluent for a book almost 500 years old, and one shouldn’t forget that Vasari had almost no art history source to study from or professional methods of writing about art to follow. For all this and more, the importance of this book cannot be stressed enough. I strongly recommend to watch along with this book the wonderful bbc documentary of Andrew graham Dixon - “travels with Vasari”, which will give you an extra dimension to understand his accomplishment, and is served with the passionate and fun way of mr. Dixon.

  22. 5 out of 5

    manatee

    I found this book boring when I tried to read it in Texas, but utterly fascinating and indispensable when I read it in my hotel room in Florence. It really helped make my vacation in Florence meaningful since I spent four days staring up at art filled cathedral ceilings. Vasari is really just a big gossip,but he really does put things in perspective. (Pun intended). He talks about who squandered his money on his terrible wife and who drank a lot ,but he talks about how Cimabue and Giotto started I found this book boring when I tried to read it in Texas, but utterly fascinating and indispensable when I read it in my hotel room in Florence. It really helped make my vacation in Florence meaningful since I spent four days staring up at art filled cathedral ceilings. Vasari is really just a big gossip,but he really does put things in perspective. (Pun intended). He talks about who squandered his money on his terrible wife and who drank a lot ,but he talks about how Cimabue and Giotto started a new way of seeing things and recovered the art of the past,as well. I discovered this work by accident and am very glad that I did, as it is the bible of Italian renaissance art biography. I learned SO much when I remembered to take my copy along with me to the museums and cathedrals of Florence. Without my trusted friend Vasari,the beautiful art of Florence might have been one gorgeous ,but bewildering jumble. A really necessary book for ANYONE going to Florence.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    I was hoping a bit more from this ancient gossip. Alas! Vasari was not the best of writers. He shows great favoritism to certain artists and a lot of the information was inaccurate. A few interesting stories though I liked hearing of the decoration of the old church. I also have a fascination with Ludovico Ariosto and was interested in the bit about him and Titan. I looked up many of these works online so I could get an idea of what he was describing and felt that some of his descriptions either I was hoping a bit more from this ancient gossip. Alas! Vasari was not the best of writers. He shows great favoritism to certain artists and a lot of the information was inaccurate. A few interesting stories though I liked hearing of the decoration of the old church. I also have a fascination with Ludovico Ariosto and was interested in the bit about him and Titan. I looked up many of these works online so I could get an idea of what he was describing and felt that some of his descriptions either did not to the work justice or exaggerated features that I found lacking in quality. Still he was one of the earliest to compile information about the renaissance artists and we are lucky to have any writings of these men from a contemporary.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tinytextiles

    This is a book for those interested in the artists of the Italian Renaissance. I have only read about one of the artists--Perugino--whose later paintings are more to my liking for this period of mostly religious work. Vasari's Lives provides a lot of interesting details of the paintings and the artist.My recommendation is to read only one chapter of an artist a month. You will need to refer to the Web sites for pictures of the paintings.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura Localio

    I read this in college while taking a Renaissance History Course. It was a bit of a difficult read (for me at least), but interesting if you like historical info about art.

  26. 5 out of 5

    latner3

    A great book to delve into whether you have a love of Italian Renaissance Art or not.An exceptional read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Listened to the Naxos abridged audio version

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kiely

    just gonna go ahead and mark this as read bc i've come back to this book again, and again, and again over the last two years while studying the Renaissance. I am ready, and willing, to fight anyone about the proper place in art history of Vasari and his Lives, about the facts he got wrong and the "facts" he almost completely made up, about the horrible and lasting effects that his words had on the reputation of certain artists (most prominently, Pontormo), about the fact that he worked for Grand just gonna go ahead and mark this as read bc i've come back to this book again, and again, and again over the last two years while studying the Renaissance. I am ready, and willing, to fight anyone about the proper place in art history of Vasari and his Lives, about the facts he got wrong and the "facts" he almost completely made up, about the horrible and lasting effects that his words had on the reputation of certain artists (most prominently, Pontormo), about the fact that he worked for Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo Primo de' Medici with the goal of extolling the virtues of Florentine art and instead formed the art historical canon and the primacy of Florence in art history for the next 500 years.... but, in the end, it is hard to look past the fact that if there weren't for Vasari and his Lives, the practice of art history in general, and specifically Renaissance art history, would exist in an extremely different landscape today. it's hard to say that if someone else had come along and written a book like this about the lives of Venetian artists, or Northern European artists, that the landscape of the discipline would be much different, but it's an interesting thing to think about. regardless, i suppose i can grudgingly admit that i am appreciative of Vasari for creating the very basis of art history; that doesn't mean i have to like him, though.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    This book is where the renaissance starts, Vasari himself coined the term, as well as describing what came before the golden age of renewal in Italian art, as Gothic, a term he used in a negative way. He worships at the artistic & cultural altar he himself helped to build, and it is an entirely credible, as well as incredible, artifice of modern culture, a structure that allowed anyone who could read, to understand more about the creation of the art we all love, and about its creators. It gives This book is where the renaissance starts, Vasari himself coined the term, as well as describing what came before the golden age of renewal in Italian art, as Gothic, a term he used in a negative way. He worships at the artistic & cultural altar he himself helped to build, and it is an entirely credible, as well as incredible, artifice of modern culture, a structure that allowed anyone who could read, to understand more about the creation of the art we all love, and about its creators. It gives us a starting point, and then guides us, through with Giorgio's astounding melange of stories and anecdotes, histories, exaggerations, lies, half-truths, but above all, a true art lover's eye for the absolute pinnacle of Italian art that is part of the modern world, but remembers its medieval past, and idealises the classical art of ancient Greec and Rome. If you like renaissance art, if you like art, then this book is for you, but also if you like stories about people and history, that make them seem so close they're almost palpable. This is a classic, one-off book, by the man who invented his own genre, that of art historian, his legacy is of such magnitude, it would be difficult to honestly judge it. Everything we know, and think we know, about the most famous artists in history & the world, starts with Giorgio's wonderful book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aoife

    review coming soon REVIEW HERE! "Provided they are honest and innocent of lies, books travel freely and are trusted wherever they go."--Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists, page 209. Some quick thoughts: 1. It only focuses on Italian artists, at least in my shortened version. I couldn't find my edition here but of the twenty artists discussed, thirteen were from Florence and the rest from like two or three other Italian cities. 2. The only women mentioned are either unnamed wives, unnamed mistresse review coming soon REVIEW HERE! "Provided they are honest and innocent of lies, books travel freely and are trusted wherever they go."--Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists, page 209. Some quick thoughts: 1. It only focuses on Italian artists, at least in my shortened version. I couldn't find my edition here but of the twenty artists discussed, thirteen were from Florence and the rest from like two or three other Italian cities. 2. The only women mentioned are either unnamed wives, unnamed mistresses or saints. This may not be a big deal for some people, or it may be the kind of thing they pick up immediately. 3. The main theme of the paintings was Roman Catholicism. And then a bit more Roman Catholicism. And then some Greco-Roman myth. And then--you guessed it--Roman Catholicism. 4. The ultimate goal and the ultimate beauty of a painting lay in how near it was to Nature and real life. 5. I grew to like Vasari's voice. Some of the dryer highlights include: "What a deplorable contrast is presented by our modern artists who are not content with injuring one another, but who viciously and enviously rend others as well."--page 139 "And if I have failed to mention any other foreigners and Florentines who have gone there to study, let me just say that where great artists flock, so do the lesser."--page 131 "[T]his comes at no surprise, since everyone in Florence has pretensions to understanding art as much as the experience master."--page 146 Also da Vinci's entire chapter was a rollercoaster that I won't describe for spoiler-y reasons, but that I highly recommened.

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