Giorgio Vasari
Italian painter, architect, writer and historian



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Giorgio Vasari
Italian painter, architect, writer and historian
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Date of Birth

July 30, 1511

Place of Birth

Arezzo, Italy

Date of Death

June 27, 1574

Place of Death

Florence, Italy

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Girogio Vasari was a man of many talents.

A true polymath. He could write, paint, architect, hold administrative office. The list goes on. He was in “a jack of all trades, master of none” kind of situation. His paintings were only popular when he was alive. He wasn’t bad at it; he just wasn’t as good as the best of his contemporaries. Nevertheless, Vasari made various contributions to 16th century Italian art. The most important was a book, the first of its kind. It was called "The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects."

Vasari was born in Arezzo, a small town in Tuscany, in 1511. It appears his talents were recognised fairly early. When he was eight, a famous stained glass artist came to town. Guglielmo da Marsiglia, originally from France, was in Arezzo to paint three windows for the Cathedral. Vasari quickly became his pupil. While other kids were playing outside, little Giorgio would sit in churches studying the paintings.

When Giorgio turned 16, he went to Florence to study with Andrea Del Sarto. At the time, all this must’ve been really expensive for little Giorgio. Lucky for him, other people, richer people, got wind of him. Behind the most successful artists in Renaissance Italy was a kooky Medici gangster

In 1527, the Medici family was booted out of Florence. Vasari followed. In 1532, Alessandro de Medici re-acquired Florence. Vasari continued to paint for Alessandro until the Medici Duke was killed in 1537. Maybe Vasari freaked, but he left the court immediately after. He didn’t go back to the court until 1554.

Cosimo I Medici was elected the next Duke of Florence. This guy was a little paranoid and insecure about his position in the Medici family. His mother was Alessandro’s cousin. They belonged to the second branch of the illustrious family and Cosimo wasn’t proud of it. He was known to be a suspicious man, trusting only those he knew. Vasari had to dedicate an entire book to the guy to get his attention. Clearly, flattery was the way to go with Cosimo. "The Lives" was published in 1550. From 1554, the offers from the Medici fam started pouring in. Vasari mostly built corridors and passages between important buildings. Not a small job, but not the main job. 

The book made Vasari a legend. We can’t talk about Art History with capital letters without talking about him. Heck, we can’t talk about the Renaissance without talking about him. He didn’t coin the term, but he did make it popular. The book is riddled with historical inaccuracies and is clearly Medici propaganda, writing into history only Florentine artists. Vasari subsequently wrote a few more editions, including painters from other parts of the country. Giorgio may have been kissing Medici ass, but he was only doing it for art, for us, for posterity. Vasari has waded through angry mob’s to save Michelangelo’s David (his arm was severed during a riot). He may even have saved a Da Vinci from total destruction by hiding it behind one of his own murals. Not bad at all.

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  1. "Giorgio Vasari Biography, Life & Quotes." The Art Story. Accessed July 31, 2019.
  2. Shau, Kevin. "Branding the Renaissance - Giorgio Vasari." Medium. November 26, 2018. Accessed July 31, 2019.
  3. Art, National Gallery of. "Giorgio Vasari's Description of the Medici "academy"." Italian Renaissance Learning Resources. Accessed July 31, 2019.
  4. "Michelangelo & The Medici." International Opulence Magazine. Accessed July 31, 2019.
  5. "Giorgio Vasari." PBS. Accessed July 31, 2019.
  6. "Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)." Giorgio Vasari: Italian Mannerist Painter, Biographer. Accessed July 31, 2019.
  7. Solomon, Deborah. "How Giorgio Vasari Invented Art History as We Know It." The New York Times. December 01, 2017. Accessed July 31, 2019.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Giorgio Vasari

Giorgio Vasari (/vəˈsɑːri/, also US: /-ˈzɑːr-, vɑːˈzɑːri/,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. Based on Vasari's text about Giotto's new manner of painting, Jules Michelet suggested for the first time the term Renaissance in his Histoire de France (1835), a term adopted by historiography and still in use today.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Giorgio Vasari.