Giorgio Vasari (Biographical details)

Giorgio Vasari (painter/draughtsman; architect; author/poet; Italian; Male; 1511 - 1574)

Also known as

Vasari, Giorgio


(biography from N.Turner, 'Florentine Drawings of the Sixteenth Century', BM, 1986)
Painter, writer and architect; b. Arezzo 1511- d. Florence 1574. Author of the 'Lives of the Artists' (1550 and 1568). Worked principally in Rome and Florence.
Pupil in Arezzo of the French glass painter and frescoist Guillaume de Marcillat (1475-1529 or 1537), but moved to Florence in 1524, where he worked for, among others, Andrea del Sarto (q.v.); at this time his friendship with Francesco Salviati (q.v.) began. He was also associated with Michelangelo (q.v.), Baccio Bandinelli (q.v.), who taught him drawing, and he was much influenced by Rosso (q.v.). He returned to Arezzo for a year in 1527 to escape the troubles in Florence and in 1529 again fled the city, travelling to Arezzo via Pisa and Bologna. In 1532 he journeyed to Rome in the service of Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici and there studied, alongside Salviati, the Roman works of Michelangelo and Raphael (q.v.); like Salviati, he was much influenced by Raphael's followers, particularly by Perino del Vaga (1501-47) and Polidoro da Caravaggio (c.1490/1500-1543). He returned to Florence later in 1532 in the service of Alessandro de' Medici and shortly afterwards passed under Ottaviano's protection. In 1537 he was engaged upon his first important commission, that for the Camaldoli at Archicenobio, but interrupted this work in February 1538 to travel to Rome and in 1539 visited Bologna, where he painted in the refectory of S. Michele in Bosco. During the next fifteen years he travelled extensively in Italy engaged upon various commissions, but used the opportunity of his travels to compile the notes for his 'Lives' of artists (the 'Vite'): he visited Venice, Modena, Parma, Mantua and Verona in 1541; Rome in 1542, 1544, 1546 and 1550-4; Naples in 1544-5; Rimini and Arezzo in 1548; and Bologna in 1554. Important works of this period include the decoration of the artist's house in Arezzo, begun 1542; various works at Monte Oliveto, Naples, including the decoration with Gherardi (q.v.) of the refectory, 1544-5 (see 1900,0515.3); and the decoration in 1546 of the gran salone of the Cancelleria in Rome (which is said to have taken him only one hundred days to paint, prompting Michelangelo's comment "si vede" [it shows]). In 1554 he left the service of Pope Julius III to enter that of Cosimo de' Medici and the following year he directed a team of artists on the decoration of the Palazzo Vecchio, beginning with the 'Quartiere degli Elementi' (1555-9), followed by the 'Quartiere di Leone X' (1556-62), the 'Quartiere di Eleonora' and the 'Salone del Cinquecento' (1563-72). In 1566-7 he visited Rome twice and was once more in Rome in 1569 upon the instructions of Cosimo to decorate three chapels of Pius V in the Vatican. He returned to Florence in late 1571 and began the decoration of the cupola of the Cathedral, but in 1572 returned to Rome to help decorate the Sala Regia in the Vatican, travelling frequently between Rome and Florence until he had completed these Roman commissions in 1573. By June of that year he was again at work on the decoration of the cupola, which was left unfinished at his death one year later and was completed by Federico Zuccaro (see 1862,1011.188-190 and 1863,0509.630-631).
Vasari's fame as the author of the 'Vite', an indispensible source for the history of Italian painting, has tended to overshadow his career as a painter. Yet he was competent and prolific, adapting the eccentricities of Early Mannerism, as practised by such artists as Rosso, into the new High Mannerism that was to become, under Cosimo de' Medici, the official style of the Florentine Court. Another exponent of this style was his contemporary Francesco Salviati, whose work his own somewhat resembles, differing from it principally in the grandiose forms derived from Michelangelo which Vasari deliberately affected. Besides being a 'letterato' and a painter he was a successful entrepreneur, being well adapted to life at court as well as capable of organising teams of assistants to undertake much of the work required by his many large-scale decorative projects. His own autobiography and 'Ricordanze' are the principal source of information about his career. In addition to his activity as a writer of biographies, he was the first important collector of drawings (see 1882,0812.218-219 as well as 1895,0915.807).


'Le Vite' with commentary by Paola Barocchi, Verona 1966 (5 vols)
Sharon Gregory, 'Vasari and the Renaissance print', Farnham 2012