Who is Giorgio Vasari?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, architect, and biographer of the 16th century. He is best known for his extensive three-volume work on the lives of Italian artists, called Le Vite delle piĆ¹ eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects), which includes biographical information and anecdotes on over 100 of his fellow artists. Le Vite is still considered a valuable reference resource today, though it is not entirely accurate and is best supplemented with more modern research.

Giorgio Vasari was born on 30 July 1511 in Arezzo, Tuscany and apprenticed in his youth to stained glass painter Guglielmo da Marsiglia. Vasari studied art in Venice and Rome from the age of 16, meeting Michaelangelo and studying the works of Raphael and his contemporaries. Though not well remembered for his artistic contributions today, Vasari was highly admired and successful during his lifetime.

A member of the Mannerist school, Vasari had patrons among the Medici family and worked in many of Italy's prominent cities, including Florence, Rome, Naples, and his home town of Arezzo. Some of his work can still be seen throughout Italy. Vasari built a home for himself in Arezzo in 1547 and decorated it with paintings. Today, it is open to the public as a museum in the artist's honor.


Vasari first published Le Vite in 1550, followed by an expanded edition with illustrative woodcuts in 1568. He is considered the first Italian art historian and credited with coining the term Renaissance. Though Le Vite is quite different in many ways than similar works written since, Vasari's encyclopedic format has been frequently imitated.

Le Vite is heavily biased towards Florentine artists and full of apocryphal stories, and the accuracy of dates in the original left much to be desired. However, it was the first work of its kind and offers an invaluable glimpse into the artistic realm of Vasari's day. Giorgio Vasari died in Florence on 27 June 1574. Le Vite has been translated into English, French, and German.


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