Giorgio Vasari

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Self-portrait (between 1550 and 1567), Galleria degli Uffizi , Florence
The living room of Casa Vasari, the residence in Arezzo
The sacristy of Vasari in the church of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi in Naples

Giorgio Vasari (born July 30, 1511 in Arezzo , † June 27, 1574 in Florence ) was an Italian architect , court painter to the Medici and biographer of Italian artists , including Leonardo da Vinci , Raphael and Michelangelo . Through his writings on the life and work of contemporary masters, he is considered one of the first art historians . Vasari introduced the term Gothic , albeit derogatory: As an advocate of the aesthetics of ancient art, he perceived medieval art as strange, barbaric, confused (Italian gotico ). The style term Mannerism also goes back to him. In 1550, Vasari was the first to use the word rinascita ( Renaissance ) in his descriptions of Italian artists .



Vasari's family came from the tradition of pottery from Arezzo ( Italian vasaio or vasaro = potter). After training by Pollastra and the glass painter Guglielmo de Marcillat in Arezzo, the father succeeded in placing his son Giorgio under the care of the Medici, where he was trained together with the Medici sons Ippolito and Alessandro. In addition to his literary skills, Vasari expanded his knowledge of painting in the workshops of Andrea del Sarto and Baccio Bandinelli .

After the death of the father in 1527

With the republican overthrow of 1527, Vasari fled Florence to his hometown Arezzo. In the same year his father died, he had to earn a living for his mother and younger brothers and accepted any job that came up, first more as a goldsmith than as a painter. In 1530, Cardinal Ippolito de'Medici invited him to accompany him to Rome, where he underwent an intensive apprenticeship with the artists who worked for the Medici Pope Clement VII , such as Michelangelo, Polidoro and Peruzzi, and learned Roman Mannerism got to know. During these years he met Rosso Fiorentino , who had fled the Sacco di Roma . Rosso's expressiveness influenced Vasari's style, seen in a deposizione (entombment) in the Aretine church of Santissima Annunziata or a Christ being carried to the grave .

Depression and healing

From 1535 he worked again in Florence on behalf of the Medici. The death of his patron Ippolito de 'Medici and the assassination of the Florentine regent Alessandro de' Medici by his cousin Lorenzino de 'Medici in January 1537 hit him hard. Vasari, tired of court life and depressed, retired to Camaldoli, where five large panels are kept in the church, and became a painter for the Order of the Olivetans .

In February 1538, again mentally stable, he moved to Rome. In the spring of the same year he received an invitation from Ottaviano de 'Medici to return to the service of Cosimo. He refused and did not return to Florence until 1554.

Travel activity

In 1539 he can be traced back to Bologna , where he painted works for the monastery of San Michele in Bosco. Around 1540 he bought a house in Arezzo with the first large income ("Casa Vasari", see below). In 1541 he was in Venice and painted the panels of the Palazzo Corner Spinelli in Naples, where he painted hectically , including in the refectory of Monteoliveto , in the cathedral and in the Cappella della Sommaria of Castel Capuano . He boasted of having brought the “Maniera moderna” to the Neapolitans. He was in Rimini and in many cities in Emilia and Veneto . During his travels, Vasari was able to collect a great deal of information about Italian art, which he later processed in his book Le Vite de 'più eccellenti pittori scultori ed architettori ( descriptions of life , usually shortened to Le Vite ). The chronology is partly contradictory in the sources.

In 1542 he returned to Arezzo, where he created the frescoes in his house, which art history counts among his best works. In the oil and tempera paintings on the coffered ceiling of the Sala del Camino , the path of life between virtues and vices and the influence of heavenly bodies is shown. The focus is on the octagonal picture: The virtue that beats happiness and holds envy at its feet. On the sides, the ages of the people are depicted with the four seasons. At the edge are the planets with the zodiac signs.

Rome, the Farnese and the Vite

From 1544 to 1545 he was in Naples, in October 1545 he went back to Rome for a few years, where, through the mediation of Paolo Giovio and Annibal Caro, the powerful Cardinal Alessandro Farnese accepted him among his wards. This hindered the return to Florence for a long time because the Farnese competed with the Medici. For the Farnese, Vasari decorated a room in the Palazzo della Cancelleria in 1546 in such a short time that it was subsequently called the “Hall of the Hundred Days”. The series of frescoes on the pontificate of Paul III. , Alessandro's grandfather earned him a great reputation and numerous orders.

Between 1545 and 1547 he wrote the first version of his Vite , inspired by the circle of intellectuals and artists around Alessandro Farnese. To do this, he used the drawings, sketches and notes of his travel years. This "Libro de 'disegni di Giorgio Vasari" was torn apart after his death, the sheets are now in a dozen public collections. The Vite unite a total of 318 artist biographies over a period of three centuries, chronologically from Giovanni Cimabue (* 1240) to Vasari himself. Many of the portrayed had worked on behalf of the Medici. Although the historical information is unreliable, incorrect or even made up, the Vite is still an important reference work on the painting of the Italian Renaissance . "For the idea of ​​telling the story of art as a hero story, as a succession of outstanding individuals, Giorgio Vasari's life descriptions of the most famous painters, sculptors and architects, first published in 1550, are a powerful event," says Andreas Dorschel ; previously only rulers, generals, philosophers, and saints had been honored in biographies; for artists, the vite were a symptom of social advancement.

At the time the Vite was being written , he entered into a relationship with Maddalena Bacci in Rome, with whom he had two illegitimate children. In order to avoid the scandal, the great love ended not with one marriage, but two: Maddalena married a captain of the ducal militia, Vasari married her younger sister Niccolosa, then only eleven years old. In 1550 he therefore decided to return to Florence; The printing of the Vite was entrusted to the Florentine publishing house Torrentino. To dedicate the work to Cosimo I de 'Medici was an attempt to regain his grace.

Return to Tuscany

He planned the decoration of Villa Giulia from 1550–1552 . Cosimo I called him back to Florence in 1554, the center of his artistic activity in the following years. After the great Arno flood in 1557, he worked on the restoration and construction of many buildings: Palazzo Vecchio (painting of the "Quartiere degli Elementi", 1555–1557, the apartments of Leo X., 1555–1562; the Salone dei Cinquecento , 1562–1565; decoration of the “Studiolo di Francesco I ” 1570–1572), construction of the Uffizi from 1559 until his death. For the Medici he also built the closed corridor from the Uffizi Gallery to the Palazzo Pitti above the roofs of the old town.

In addition to his work as a court architect, he carried out other assignments: 1560–1564 modernization of the Pieve Santa Maria in Arezzo, where his grave is now located; the churches of Santa Maria Novella , 1565–1567, and Santa Croce in Florence, 1566–1568; Reconstruction of the Badia delle Sante Flora e Lucilla .

The last few years

Recent works include the project of the loggias on the Piazza Grande in Arezzo (1570–1572) and the decoration of the three “Cappelle Pie” and the “ Sala Regia ” in the Vatican (1571–1573). He worked on the huge frescoes of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore until the year of his death, only being completed by Federico Zuccari .



are described in the vita.


  • Painting in the Church of San Donnino and Ilario of the Camaldoli Monastery , 1537–1540.
  • Frescoes and ceiling paintings in the Casa di Giorgio Vasari in Arezzo, around 1541–1546 and again around 1568.
  • Frescoes in the Sala dei Cento Giorni in the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome, 1546/47.
  • Frescoes and ceiling paintings in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence ( Quartiere di Leone X , Quartiere degli Elementi , Quartiere di Eleonora and Sala dei Cinquecento ), 1555–1565.
  • Painting The Toilet of Venus (for Luca Torrigiani), 1558, Staatsgalerie , Stuttgart .
  • Drafts for the “Studiolo”, the study of Grand Duke Francesco I in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, approx. 1568–1570.
  • Frescoes in the Casa di Giorgio Vasari in Florence, Borgo S. Croce, approx. 1569–1573.
  • Frescoes in the Sala Regia of the Vatican Palace in Rome, 1572.
  • Dome of the Cathedral in Florence, fresco The Last Judgment, 1572–1574, completed by Federico Zuccaro 1574–1579

The biographies

Title of the second edition of Le Vite (woodcut by Giorgio Vasari), Florence (Giunti) 1568.

Vasari's opus magnum, which earned him above-average attention, are the artist biographies, Le Vite . The full title of the first edition in 1550: Le Vite de 'più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani, da Cimabue infino a' tempi nostri: descritte in lingua toscana da Giorgio Vasari, pittore arentino - Con una sua utile et necessaria introduzione a le arti loro . L. Torrentino, Florence 1550, 2 vol.

In 1568 the second, greatly expanded edition appeared with a slightly changed title:

  • Le Vite de 'più eccellenti pittori, scultori et architettori, steps e di nuovo ampliate da Giorgio Vasari con i ritratti loro e con l'aggiunta delle Vite de' vivi e de 'morti dall'anno 1550 infino al 1567 . Giunti, Florenz 1568, 3 vols. Vasari also added a series of (mostly fictional) portraits of artists and increased the number of painters, including his autobiography, to 318.

Contents of the edition of 1568

Contrary to the title, Vasari does not describe the lives of all the major Italian artists "from Cimabue to our time"; H. between approximately 1280 and 1550, but puts emphasis on Tuscan and Umbrian artists, neglecting other regions of Italy. In particular, Vasari lacks many outstanding artists from Northern Italy.

First part

  • Dedication to Cosimo de 'Medici 1550
  • Dedicated to Cosimo de 'Medici on January 9, 1568
  • Proemium (preface) to the whole work
  • Introduction to the three arts of drawing: 35 chapters on technical aspects and reference literature for architecture, sculpture and painting
  • Giovambattista Adriani's letter to Vasari on the names and works of the most outstanding ancient artists of painting, bronze, and marble
  • Proemium (preface) to the biographies

Second part

40 artists in 31 chapters

third part

131 artists in 59 chapters

fourth part

62 artists in 51 chapters

Part five

39 artists in 29 chapters

Sixth part

44 artists in 8 chapters

Aftermath and influence

The American art historian Paul Barolsky (* 1941, see literature) viewed Vite from a new perspective in 1991 . Vasari did not write a historical source with many "errors", but a collection of novels based on recognizable patterns by Boccaccio and Franco Sacchetti , with many cross-references to writers from Dante Alighieri and Francesco Petrarca to his contemporaries. The Vite is a deliberately literary work in which Vasari has taken freely invented episodes from the Decamerone or Sacchetti's novellas, sometimes relocated them to his own time and ascribed them to painters. Vasari himself invented other anecdotal material and collated it into exciting biographies.

He also used the Vite for self-portrayal in order to adequately portray his artistic rank and importance for the Medici. In 1527, when the Medici were again expelled from Florence, a bench is said to have been thrown out of a window of the Palazzo Vecchio and smashed the left arm of the statue of David . The young Vasari (according to his own report) collected and kept the fragments. After the rule of the Medici was finally secured, he gave it to Cosimo I in 1543 , who had the sculpture restored.

He even invented entire painter personalities, such as Morto da Feltro ( suspect by its name) (the dead man from Feltro, sic), whom art history has long tried to identify - without a single attributed or signed work and without any reliable source - or to be equated with painters like Lorenzo Luzzo (from Feltre) (variants Pietro Luzzo, Pietro Luci) or Giovanni da Udine , “of course” without any concrete result.

Most of the pictorial episodes in the Vite have no source, according to Barolsky, but are masterfully linked into believable résumés by artists and have been used as an authentic historical source for four hundred years. The Vite were so suggestive that the Uffizi even ascribed a self-portrait to Morto da Feltro without a single reference work, based solely on Vasari's stories.


"Michelangelo portrayed Mr. Tommaso in a large box after nature, he who never made a portrait before or after, because he hated to do something after life if it was not of the highest beauty."

- Vasari, 1568

“The richest, and sometimes the most supernatural, gifts we often see naturally poured out upon human creatures with the aid of heavenly influences; We see beauty, kindness and virtue united in a monstrous way in a single body in such a way that, wherever he turns, his every action is so divine that all people lag behind him and it is clearly revealed: What he achieves is Donated by God, not enforced by human ability. The world saw that in Leonardo da Vinci. Because apart from his beauty, which has never been extolled enough, divine grace fills everything he does. "

- Vasari's introduction to his biography of Leonardo
History of the zeuxis in the Casa Vasari in Florence

Case Vasari

Bust above the entrance portal of Casa Vasari in Arezzo
Salon of the Casa Vasari in Arezzo

Casa Vasari in Florence

There are two Case Vasari , one in Florence and one in Arezzo. In Florence Cosimo I de 'Medici left the palazzo in Borgo Santa Croce 8 as a residence to the artist for rent in 1557, and in 1561 Cosimo gave the Vasari house in recognition of his services. Vasari created frescoes in the interior, of which only those in the salon have survived. The palace, long neglected, was restored in 1942, 1995 and extensively in 2009-2011, was listed as a historical monument in 1933 and has since been open to visitors via the adjacent Museo Horne of the Fondazione Horne .

The frescoes of the Sala grande show art allegories, on the west wall the "birth of painting", on the east wall the Syracusan sculptor Zeuxis , in the north the story of Apelles and in the south thirteen artists from the Vite , contemporaries of Vasari.

Casa Vasari in Arezzo

In Arezzo, the city of his birth, Vasari bought the house at 55 Via XX settembre and made it the family residence. The mannerist furnishings have been preserved, most of the furnishings have been lost, and Vasari's facade planning was not carried out. The house remained in the family's possession until it died out in 1687 , after several changes of ownership it fell to the Italian state in 1911 , which turned it into a museum. The Archivio Vasariano is also located in the Casa Vasari.

Archivio Vasariano

The Vasari archive, which includes 17 autograph letters by Michelangelo Buonarroti and three autographs of his sonnets, is an invaluable source for the art of the 16th century.

When the last heir died, Count Rasponi Spinelli, as executor, kept the archive as pledge; it was rediscovered more than two hundred years later, in 1908, in the Florentine Palazzo Rasponi Spinelli. Today the archive is again in Arezzo, owned by the heirs, the four brothers Tommaso, Francesco, Leonardo and Antonio Festari. In March 2017, you completed the digitization of the documents, which are now publicly accessible in this form.

As early as 1983 , Giovanni Festari wanted to sell the artist's archive to the Russian oligarch Vasily Stepanov for the equivalent of 150 million euros; the rumored price was never paid. Rumors are circulating in Florence that the astronomical price was quoted in order to raise the amount of compensation for the planned expropriation (the state offered the equivalent of 1.5 million euros, a court doubled the estimate). The archive is restricted by the Ronchey law and cannot leave Italy under any circumstances.

In 2017 the archive was declared a nationally important cultural asset, the preparatory step towards expropriation. The heirs appealed against this. The expropriation was announced by decree on April 25, 2018, but is not yet legally binding. A legal dispute between the State Archives and the Festari brothers, including about the amount of compensation, as well as criminal charges against the State Archives are pending. Given the state of the Italian judiciary, the conflict could last for years.

Translations and reprints

The Vite have seen 18 new editions so far and have been translated into eight languages.

In German translation

Annotated complete edition from 1568

Other German-language editions

  • Fritz Schillmann (Ed.): Giorgio Vasari - Artists of the Renaissance - Descriptions of the lives of the most distinguished painters, sculptors and architects of the Renaissance , Transmare Verlag, Berlin 1948. ( Full text online in the Gutenberg project)
  • Renaissance artist. Biographies of the most distinguished painters, sculptors and architects of the Renaissance. Edited and compiled by Fritz Schillmann. With 30 portrait drawings by Herbert Thannhaeuser . Vollmer Verlag, Wiesbaden-Berlin 1959.
  • Ludwig Schorn, Ernst Förster (ed.): Giorgio Vasari: Life of the most excellent painters, sculptors and builders from Cimabue up to 1567 . 6 volumes. Reprint of the first German-language complete edition, Tübingen and Stuttgart 1832–1849. Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms, 1st edition: 1983. ISBN 978-3-88462-018-2 ; 2nd edition: 1988. ISBN 978-3-88462-057-1
  • Sabine Feser (Ed.): Giorgio Vasari. My life . Newly translated by Victoria Lorini, commented and edited by Sabine Feser. Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 2005, ISBN 978-3-8031-5026-4 .
  • Renaissance artists - biographies of excellent Italian builders, painters and sculptors . With a foreword by Ernst Jaffé and based on the translation by Schorn and Förster, Nikol Verlagsgesellschaft, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-86820-076-8 .

Italian Critical Complete Edition

  • Gaetano Milanesi , Carlo Milanesi, Vincenzo Marchese, Carol Pini: Giorgio Vasari: Le vite de 'più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti . Società di Amatori delle Arti belle / F. Le Monnier, Florence 1846–1857 (critical edition).
    • 2nd edition as: Le vite de 'più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori seritte da Giorgio Vasari . 9 volumes, Florence: GC Sansoni, 1878–1885.


About Vasari

  • Paul Barolsky : Why Mona Lisa Smiles and Other Tales by Vasari , Pennsylvania State University Press 1991. German edition: Why does Mona Lisa smile? Vasari's Inventions , translated by Robin Cackett. Wagenbach, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-8031-3579-6 .
  • Gerd Blum : Giorgio Vasari. The inventor of the Renaissance. CH Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-61455-2 .
  • Georges Didi-Huberman : Art as a new birth and the immortality of the ideal person. In: Georges Didi-Huberman: Before a picture. Hanser Verlag, Munich a. a. 2000, ISBN 3-446-16589-4 , pp. 61-92.
  • Fabian Jonietz, Alessandro Nova (ed.): Vasari as a paradigm. Reception, Criticism, Perspectives - The Paradigm of Vasari. Reception, Criticism, Perspectives (= Collana del Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence - Max Planck Institute. Vol. 20). Conference files, 14.-16. February 2014, Florence, Art History Institute, Max Planck Institute. Marsilio, Venice 2016, ISBN 978-88-317-2661-0 .
  • Alessandro Nova , Katja Burzer, Charles Davis, Sabine Feser (eds.): Le Vite del Vasari. Genesi, topoi, ricezione. = The Vite Vasaris. Origin, topoi, reception (= Collana del Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence Max Planck Institute. Vol. 14). Atti del convegno, February 13–17, 2008, Firenze, Institute of Art History, Max Planck Institute. Marsilio, Venice 2010, ISBN 978-88-317-0829-6 .
  • Erwin Panofsky : The first sheet from the Libro Giorgio Vasaris. A Study of the Assessment of Gothic in the Italian Renaissance. (1930). In: Erwin Panofsky: Sense and Interpretation in the Visual Arts. = (Meaning in the visual arts) (= DuMont paperbacks 33). DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1975, ISBN 3-7701-0801-9 , pp. 192-273.
  • Wolfram Prinz: Vasari's collection of artist portraits. With a critical index of the 144 life portraits in the second edition of the biographies of 1568. L'Impronta, Florence 1966.
  • Einar Rud: Giorgio Vasari. Father of European art history (= Urban books. Vol. 77). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1964, ZDB -ID 995319-x .
  • Julius von Schlosser : The art literature. A handbook for source studies in modern art history. Schroll, Vienna 1924 (Unchanged reprint. Ibid 1985, ISBN 3-7031-0604-2 ).
  • Carlo Maria Simonetti: La vita delle 'Vite' vasariane. Profilo storico di due edizioni. Olschki, Florence 2005.
  • Andreas Kamp: From Paleolithic to Postmodernism - The Genesis of Our Epoch System , Vol. I: From the Beginnings to the End of the 17th Century , Amsterdam / Philadelphia 2010, pp. 77-89 (on Vasari's innovative historical order)

Vite digital sources

Vasari: Vite , edition of 1550, online . Ed. Paola Barocchi, Fondazione Memofonte (freely accessible digital sources), accessed on May 14, 2018

  • Daniel Kupper (Ed.) Giorgio Vasari: Lives of the most distinguished painters, sculptors and builders from Cimabue up to 1567 , Directmedia Publishing , Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-89853-621-9 . The publisher has ceased its website (as of 2018) and deleted its email address.
  • Ludwig Schorn (Ed.) The life of the most distinguished painters, sculptors and builders from Cimabue up to 1567 , Stuttgart a. Tübingen, Cotta 1832–1849, outdated German translation digitized
  • The life of Raphael von Urbino , translation by Herman Grimm from 1896, digitized

Web links

Commons : Giorgio Vasari  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Giorgio Vasari  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Mary Pittaluga: Vasari, Giorgio. Enciclopedia Treccani, online edition, accessed May 14, 2018 .
  2. Enrico Mattioda: Giorgio Vasari tra Roma e Firenze , 2008, online , accessed on May 14, 2018
  4. Claudia Conforti, Francesca Funis: Vasari , Giunti Editore, Florence, 2001. ISBN 88-09-76481-1 .
  5. Klaus Zimmermanns: Toscana. Dumont, Cologne 1989, ISBN 3-7701-1050-1 , p. 236
  6. ^ The Vites of Giorgio Vasari , LMU Munich, October 21, 2015
  7. Andreas Dorschel : Freshness of the beginning. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , No. 249, October 26, 2004, p. 18.
  8. Enrico Mattioda reports all the events of these years: Giorgio Vasari tra Roma e Firenze, 2008, p. 495 ff., Also on the Internet [1], accessed on May 14, 2018
  9. From left to right: Marsilio Ficino , Cristoforo Landino , Francesco Petrarca , Giovanni Boccaccio , Dante Alighieri , Guido Cavalcanti . Six Tuscan Poets, Giorgio Vasari. Minneapolis Institute of Art, accessed May 17, 2018 .
  10. ^ Ina Conzen: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, the collection: Masterpieces from the 14th to the 21st century , Hirmer, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-7774-7065-8 .
  11. Klaus Zimmermanns: Toscana. Dumont, Cologne 1989, ISBN 3-7701-1050-1 , p. 182
  12. Julius von Schlosser: The art literature. A handbook for source studies in modern art history. (Reprint of the 1924 edition), Schroll, Vienna / Munich 1985, p. 293.
  13. Pontecommedia
  14. For comparison: In 2000, Michelangelo's six handwritten lines alone paid 250,000 DM (Christian Andree: 1.65 million marks for top autographs in Die Welt of July 15, 2000), and the Michelangelo letters alone would have a higher value than the state offer for the entire archive.
  15. Anonymous report: Chaos a Casa Vasari , La Nazione (daily newspaper), Florence, April 25, 2018
  16. See: Gerd Blum: Künstlerviten. A new view of Vasari's oeuvre at the end of the Berlin edition . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, October 28, 2015, p. 41.