Vasari, Giorgio
Florentine, 1511 - 1574
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Biography

Giorgio Vasari was one of the foremost artists of 16th century Italy, renowned not only as a painter, draftsman, and architect, but also as the author of Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, a series of artist biographies that formed the basis for modern art history. Born in Arezzo on July 30, 1511, into a family of craftsmen, Vasari undertook artistic training in Florence under the care of the ruling Medici family and entered the workshop and circle of Andrea del Sarto. During his training in Florence, Michelangelo’s work strongly impacted Vasari, an influence that would remain potent for his entire artistic career. Following travels to Rome and Arezzo during the expulsion of the Medici family from Florence in 1527, Vasari returned to Florence in service of the Medici court upon their reinstatement into power in 1532. There he painted portraits of both Lorenzo il Magnifico and Alessandro de’ Medici. Vasari briefly turned his attention to the study of architecture until 1537 when his patron Alessandro was murdered, after which Vasari abandoned the court. Over the next decade, Vasari traveled across Italy, befriending artists and taking on both lay and religious commissions. In 1537, the monastery at Camaldoli commissioned several works from him, including a Virgin and Child, an altarpiece of the Nativity, and in 1540 Vasari completed his Descent from the Cross for the high altar. After journeys to Venice to visit Pietro Aretino and to Mantua to visit Giulio Romano, Vasari purchased a house in Arezzo and worked on its decoration until 1546. During this period, he also completed commissions in Naples and Rome, where he met Titian. By 1547, he had completed writing the Lives, which he dedicated to Cosimo I upon its publication in 1550. By 1554, Vasari had returned to the service of the Medici in Florence, after which he undertook perhaps the most significant project of his artistic career, the remodeling of the Palazzo Vecchio. In the last decade of his life, the painter worked for both the duke of Florence and in Rome for Pope Pius V. In 1569, the pope commissioned Vasari to decorate several chapels in the Vatican, work for which Vasari was later awarded a knighthood. The uppermost chapel in the Torre Pio in Rome was dedicated to the archangel Michael, with a central panel of the Coronation of the Virgin surrounded by paintings of the four evangelists. The Saint Luke and Saint Mark panels were acquired by the National Gallery of Art in 2013. In addition to these works, the National Gallery of Art holds several drawings by Vasari, including a sheet from his important book of drawings, the “Libro de’ Disegni.” Vasari died on June 27, 1574, in Florence, and was buried in a chapel he designed in Arezzo. His artworks achieved high acclaim in his time, and his Lives remains perhaps the most popular early work on the history of art. —Kelli Wood Born in Arezzo on July 30, 1511, into a family of craftsmen, Vasari undertook artistic training in Florence under the care of the ruling Medici family and entered the workshop and circle of Andrea del Sarto. During his training in Florence, Michelangelo’s work strongly impacted Vasari, an influence that would remain potent for his entire artistic career. Following travels to Rome and Arezzo during the expulsion of the Medici family from Florence in 1527, Vasari returned to Florence in service of the Medici court upon their reinstatement into power in 1532. There he painted portraits of both Lorenzo il Magnifico and Alessandro de’ Medici. Vasari briefly turned his attention to the study of architecture until 1537 when his patron Alessandro was murdered, after which Vasari abandoned the court. Over the next decade, Vasari traveled across Italy, befriending artists and taking on both lay and religious commissions. In 1537, the monastery at Camaldoli commissioned several works from him, including a Virgin and Child, an altarpiece of the Nativity, and in 1540 Vasari completed his Descent from the Cross for the high altar. After journeys to Venice to visit Pietro Aretino and to Mantua to visit Giulio Romano, Vasari purchased a house in Arezzo and worked on its decoration until 1546. During this period, he also completed commissions in Naples and Rome, where he met Titian. By 1547, he had completed writing the Lives, which he dedicated to Cosimo I upon its publication in 1550. By 1554, Vasari had returned to the service of the Medici in Florence, after which he undertook perhaps the most significant project of his artistic career, the remodeling of the Palazzo Vecchio. In the last decade of his life, the painter worked for both the duke of Florence and in Rome for Pope Pius V. In 1569, the pope commissioned Vasari to decorate several chapels in the Vatican, work for which Vasari was later awarded a knighthood. The uppermost chapel in the Torre Pio in Rome was dedicated to the archangel Michael, with a central panel of the Coronation of the Virgin surrounded by paintings of the four evangelists. The Saint Luke and Saint Mark panels were acquired by the National Gallery of Art in 2013. In addition to these works, the National Gallery of Art holds several drawings by Vasari, including a sheet from his important book of drawings, the “Libro de’ Disegni.” Vasari died on June 27, 1574, in Florence, and was buried in a chapel he designed in Arezzo. His artworks achieved high acclaim in his time, and his Lives remains perhaps the most popular early work on the history of art. —Kelli Wood

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