Georgio Vasari: In any other place, at any other time, Georgio Vasari would have been the brightest star in the artistic galaxy. He was a child prodigy who took master class lessons from Guglielmo de Marcillat in his native Arezzo before graduating to the circle of Andrea del Sarto in nearby Florence. His Patron was Duke Alessandro de' Medici, and for the Medici family he made great frescoes in their Florentine Palazzo Vecchio and painted the famous posthumous portrait of Lorenzo the Magnificent -- he was certainly the favorite artist of the Medici court. For the Farnese family he adorned the Cancelleria in Rome with scenes of the life of Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese.) Again in Florence, working as an architect for the Medici, he designed the Uffizi, the executive office building of the Florentine Dukes, which quickly became the famous art museum that it is today, and then the "Vasari Corridor", which connects the Pitti Palace to the Uffizi, crossing the Arno River as the upper level of the Ponte Vecchio.

But Vasari's Florence of the 16th century was already populated by the likes of Michelangelo Buonaroti and, even more importantly, Raphael Santi. Vasari was justly famous (and amply rewarded) in his own time for both his art and architecture, but he has been regarded by history as second string (-- he didn't even have a Ninja Turtle named after him).

Vasari invented the word "maniera" to praise the way his idol, Raphael, twisted human figures and altered visual geometry to unify pictorial composition and make his works more dynamic. Vasari emulated this style, and he and others who did the same have forever been known as "Mannerists", with the implication that they were simply facile copyists of Raphael's vision. (It is worth mentioning that Raphael didn't even invent this new dynamism -- Raphael got it from Michelangelo in a sneak preview of the Sistine chapel and managed to complete and display a major work in Michelangelo's style before the chapel was opened for public viewing. Michelangelo was not amused.)

The Uffizi gallery serves as a metaphor for Vasari's life -- we remember his building not for itself, worthy as it is, but for the works of other masters that it contains. Similarly, we remember Vasari not for his own artistic accomplishments but for what he wrote about the accomplishments and lives of other artists. His Lives of the Most Eminent Architects, Painters, and Sculptors (published in 1550 with a revised and updated edition in 1568) is the source of most of what we know about the great Renaissance artists and is required reading for anyone wishing to understand Italian Renaissance art.

Internet Links:

Two sets of selections from the Lives:, and   Note that neither set of selections includes Vasari's autobiographical sketch, which was included in the second edition -- he still gets little respect.

Encyclopedia Britannica bio of Vasari:,5716,76836+1+74874,00.html

Uffizi Gallery official page:

The portrait of Lorenzo the Magnificent:

The Vasari Corridor:

Vasari's monument to Michelangelo in San Croce, Florence

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