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Meet Giorgio Vasari, a brief introduction

He’s the name behind the Uffizi and the Palazzo Vecchio. You guessed it: Giorgio Vasari.

Giorgio Vasari
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He was born in Arezzo, Tuscany on July 3, 1511. He was an architect and painter, known also for his biographical writings. Indeed, Giorgio Vasari is a name to remember.

The life of Giorgio Vasari

When Vasari was young, he studied under the tutelage of Guglielmo da Marsiglia. After studying with the glass painter, Vasari moved to Rome. In the capital, he studied Raffaello’s art and the works of the Italian Renaissance.

Later, he started working for the De’Medici family, both in Rome and in Florence. He also worked in other Italian cities, like Naples. But his main paintings are in the Tuscan city. Especially in the halls and walls of Palazzo Vecchio.

Vasari was more successful as an architect than as a painter. His greatest work was the loggia of the Palazzo degli Uffizi, by the Arno. He designed the long passageway that connects it to the Pitti Palace. Unfortunately, Vasari damaged two medieval churches, the church of Santa Croce, and the church of Santa Maria Novella when he removed the original rod screen and the lofts.

In 1547, he built a large home in Arezzo. Today, this building houses a museum in his honor. Vasari himself spent countless hours painting the vaults and walls of his home. While living there, Varasi was elected to Arezzo’s municipal council and eventually rose to position in the supreme office of gonfaloniere.

In 1563, Varasi founded the Accademia del Disegno with the Grand Duke and Michelangelo, the latter as capo of the institution.

The “Vite”

Vasari was the first ever Italian art historian. He started an encyclopedia of artist’s biographies that continues in present day Italy. The Vite was published in 1550 and was dedicated to Cosimo l De’ Medici, the Grand Duke. Included in the work was a priceless treatise on technical methods used by master artists. In 1568, it was partially rewritten and woodcut portraits were included.

Within Vasari’s biographies the reader will find many interesting and humorous anecdotes. Though they hold a ring of truth, it is obvious that some of them have been embellished. Today, biographers sift through the archives to paint pictures in words of the lives of their subjects. Vasari had no such luxury.

Some modern day researchers have modified the Vite and changed dates to correspond with modern research. However the Vite remains a classic. At the end of the Vite, Varasi gives a sketch of his own biography and gives details of his life and his family. Varasi died on June 27, 1574, at the age of sixty-three.

By Mary M. Alward

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