Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects

Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects

Infobox Book
name = Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects
title_orig = Le Vite delle più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori
translator = E.L. Seeley

image_caption = A cover of the "Vite"
author = Giorgio Vasari
country = Italy
language = Italian
subject = Artist biographies
publisher = Torrentino (1550), Giunti (1568)
pub_date = 1550 (enlarged 1568)
english_pub_date = 1908
pages = 369 (1550), 686 (1568)
The "Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects", or "Le Vite delle più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori" as it was originally known in Italian, is a series of artist biographies written by 16th century Italian painter and architect Giorgio Vasari, which is considered "perhaps the most famous, and even today the most- read work of the older literature of art", [ Max Marmor, "Kunstliteratur", translated by Ernst Gombrich, in Art Documentation Vol 11 # 1, 1992] ] "some of the Italian Renaissance's most influential writing on art" [ [ University of Leeds website] ] , and "one of the founding texts in art history". [ Victor Ginsburgh and Sheila Weyers, "Persistence and Fashion in Art", Louvain (2005)] ] The title is often abridged to the "Vite" or the "Lives".


As the first Italian art historian, Vasari initiated the genre of an encyclopedia of artistic biographies that continues today. He coined the term "Renaissance" ("rinascita") in print, though an awareness of the ongoing "rebirth" in the arts had been in the air from the time of Alberti. [ [ Andreas Kablitz, "Surfaces" Vol 9, 2001] ] Vasari's work was first published in 1550 by Lorenzo Torrentino in Florence, [ [ Christopher Witcombe, Art History and Technology] ] and dedicated to Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici. It included a valuable treatise on the technical methods employed in the arts. It was partly rewritten and enlarged in 1568 and provided with woodcut portraits of artists (some conjectural).

The work has a consistent and notorious bias in favour of Florentines and tends to attribute to them all the new developments in Renaissance art—for example, the invention of engraving. Venetian art in particular, let alone other parts of Europe, is systematically ignored. [ [ Takuma Ito, Studies of Western Art #12, July 2007] ] Between his first and second editions, Vasari visited Venice and the second edition gave more attention to Venetian art (finally including Titian) without achieving a neutral point of view. John Symonds claimed in 1899 that "It is clear that Vasari often wrote with carelessness, confusing dates and places, and taking no pains to verify the truth of his assertions.", while acknowledging that despite these shortcomings, it is one of the basic sources for information on the Renaissance in Italy. [ [ John Symonds' "Renaissance in Italy" Vol 3 part 2] ]

Vasari's biographies are interspersed with amusing gossip. Many of his anecdotes have the ring of truth, although likely inventions. Others are generic fictions, such as the tale of young Giotto painting a fly on the surface of a painting by Cimabue that the older master repeatedly tried to brush away, a genre tale that echoes anecdotes told of the Greek painter Apelles. He did not research archives for exact dates, as modern art historians do, and naturally his biographies are most dependable for the painters of his own generation and the immediately preceding one. Modern criticism—with all the new materials opened up by research—has corrected many of his traditional dates and attributions. The work is widely considered a classic even today, though it is widely agreed that it must be supplemented by modern critical research.

Vasari includes a 42 page sketch of his own biography at the end of his "Vite", and adds further details about himself and his family in his lives of Lazzaro Vasari and Francesco Salviati.


Vasari's "Vite" has been described as "by far the most influential single text for the history of Renaissance art" [ [ Professor Hope, The Warburg Institute, course synopsis, 2007] ] and "the most important work of Renaissance biography of artists". Its influence is situated mainly in three domains: as an example for contemporary and later biographers and art historians, as a defining factor in the view on the Renaissance and the role of Florence and Rome in it, and as a major source of information on the lives and works of early Italian artists.

The "Vite" have been translated wholly or partially into many languages, including English, Dutch, German and French.

Flood of artist biographies

The "Vite" started a wave of artist biographies. Other, mainly 17th century biographers often were called the Vasari of their country. Karel Van Mander in The Netherlands was probably the first Vasarian author with his "Het Schilderboeck" ("The Painters' Book") from 1604, the first comprehensive list of biographies of painters from the Low Countries. Joachim von Sandrart (1606-1688), author of "Deutsche Akademie", was known as the "German Vasari". [ [ Abstract from the transactions of the bibliographical society] ] In England, Aglionby's "Painting Illustrated" from 1685 was largely based on Vasari as well.

View of the Renaissance

The "Vite" is also important as the basis for discussions on the development of style, [ [ Elinor Richter, reviewing Philip Sohms study of style in the art theory] :"Giorgio Vasari's Vite, the first edition of which was published in 1550, provides the foundation for any discussion of the development of style."] It influenced the view art historians had of the Early Renaissance for a long time, placing too much emphasis on the achievements of Florentian and Roman artists while ignoring those of the rest of Italy and certainly the artists from the rest of Europe. [ [ Stephanie Leone, The Renaissance Society of Americ, 2007] : " [...] the traditional definition of Renaissance art as the humanistic innovations of Florentine and Roman artists, to which Giorgio Vasari's Vite (1550, 1568) gave rise."]

ource of information

Finally, it has also been for centuries the most important source for info on Early Renaissance Italian (and especially Tuscan) painters and the attribution of their paintings. In 1899, an author like John Addington Symonds used the "Vite" as one of his basic sources for the description of artists in his 7 books on "Renaissance in Italy". [ [ Full text of John Symonds' "Renaissance in Italy"] ] , and nowadays it is still, despite its obvious biases and shortcomings, the basis for the biography of many artists like Leonardo da Vinci. [ [ Bernard Barryte, The life of Leonardo da Vinci, University of Rochester Library Bulletin (1984)] ]


The "Vite" contains the biographies of many important Italian artists, and is also adopted as a sort of classical reference guide for their names, which are sometimes used in different ways. The following list respects the order of the book, as divided into its three parts. The book starts with a dedication to Cosimo de' Medici and a preface, and then starts with technical and background texts about architecture, sculpture, and painting. A second preface follows, introducing the actual "Vite" in parts 2 to 5. What follows is the complete list from the second (1568) edition. In a few cases, different very short biographies were given in one section.

Part 2

* Cimabue
* Arnolfo di Lapo, with Bonnano
* Nicola Pisano
* Giovanni Pisano
* Andrea Tafi
* Gaddo Gaddi
* Margaritone
* Giotto, with Puccio Capanna
* Agostino and Agnolo
* Stefano and Ugolino
* Pietro Lorenzetti (Pietro Laurati)
* Andrea Pisano
* Buonamico Buffalmacco
* Ambrogio Lorenzetti (Ambruogio Laurati)
* Pietro Cavallini
* Simone Martini with Lippo Memmi
* Taddeo Gaddi
* Andrea Orcagna (Andrea di Cione)
* Tomasso Fiorentino
* Giovanni da Ponte
* Agnolo Gaddi
* Berna Sanese (Barna da Siena)
* Duccio
* Antonio Viniziano (Antonio Veneziano)
* Jacopo di Casentino
* Spinello Aretino
* Gherardo Starnina
* Lippo
* Lorenzo Monaco
* Taddeo Bartoli
* Lorenzo di Bicci

Part 3

* Jacopo della Quercia
* Niccolo Aretino (Niccolò di Piero Lamberti)
* Dello (Dello di Niccolò Delli)
* Nanni di Banco
* Luca della Robbia
* Paolo Uccello
* Lorenzo Ghiberti
* Masolino da Panicale
* Parri Spinelli
* Masaccio
* Filippo Brunelleschi
* Donatello
* Michelozzo Michelozzi
* Antonio Filarete and Simone (Simone Ghini)
* Giuliano da Maiano
* Piero della Francesca
* Fra Angelico
* Leon Battista Alberti
* Lazaro Vasari
* Antonello da Messina
* Alessio Baldovinetti
* Vellano da Padova (Bartolomeo Bellano)
* Fra Filippo Lippi
* Paolo Romano, Mino del Reame, Chimenti Camicia, and Baccio Pontelli
* Andrea del Castagno
* Domenico Veneziano
* Gentile da Fabriano
* Vittore Pisanello
* Pesello and Francesco Pesellino
* Benozzo Gozzoli
* Francesco di Giorgio and Vecchietta (Lorenzo di Pietro)
* Galasso Ferrarese
* Antonio Rossellino
* Bernardo Rossellino
* Desiderio da Settignano
* Mino da Fiesole
* Lorenzo Costa
* Ercole Ferrarese
* Jacopo Bellini
* Giovanni Bellini
* Gentile Bellini
* Cosimo Rosselli
* Il Cecca (Francesco d’Angelo)
* Don Bartolomeo Abbate di S. Clemente (Bartolomeo della Gatta)
* Gherardo Silvani
* Domenico Ghirlandaio
* Antonio Pollaiuolo
* Piero Pollaiuolo
* Sandro Botticelli
* Benedetto da Maiano
* Andrea del Verrocchio
* Andrea Mantegna
* Filippino Lippi
* Bernardino Pinturicchio
* Francesco Francia
* Pietro Perugino
* Vittore Scarpaccia
* Iacopo detto l'Indaco (Jacopo Torni)
* Luca Signorelli

Part 4

* Leonardo da Vinci
* Giorgione da Castelfranco
* Antonio da Correggio
* Piero di Cosimo
* Donato Bramante (Bramante da Urbino)
* Fra Bartolomeo Di San Marco
* Mariotto Albertinelli
* Raffaellino del Garbo
* Pietro Torrigiano ("Torrigiano")
* Giuliano da Sangallo
* Antonio da Sangallo
* Raphael
* Guillaume de Marcillat
* Simone del Pollaiolo ("il Cronaca")
* Davide Ghirlandaio and Benedetto Ghirlandaio
* Domenico Puligo
* Andrea da Fiesole
* Vincenzo da San Gimignano and Timoteo da Urbino
* Andrea Sansovino ("Andrea dal Monte Sansovino")
* Benedetto da Rovezzano
* Baccio da Montelupo and Raffaello da Montelupo (father and son)
* Lorenzo di Credi
* Boccaccio Boccaccino ("Boccaccino Cremonese")
* Lorenzetto
* Baldassare Peruzzi
* Pellegrino da Modena (Pellegrino Aretusi)
* Giovan Francesco, also known as "il Fattore"
* Andrea del Sarto
* Francesco Granacci
* Baccio D'Agnolo
* Properzia de’ Rossi
* Alfonso Lombardi
* Michele Agnolo (Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli)
* Girolamo Santacroce
* Dosso Dossi and Battista Dossi (Dossi brothers)
* Giovanni Antonio Licino
* Rosso Fiorentino
* Giovanni Antonio Sogliani
* Girolamo da Treviso ("Girolamo Da Trevigi")
* Polidoro da Caravaggio and Maturino da Firenze("Maturino Fiorentino")
* Bartolommeo Ramenghi ("Bartolomeo Da Bagnacavallo")
* Marco Calabrese
* Morto Da Feltro
* Franciabigio
* Francesco Mazzola
* Jacopo Palma (Il Palma)
* Lorenzo Lotto
* Fra Gocondo
* Francesco Granacci
* Baccio d'Agnolo
* Valerio Vicentino (Valerio Belli), Giovanni da Castel Bolognese (Giovanni Bernardi) and Matteo dal Nasaro Veronese

Part 5

* Marcantonio Bolognese
* Antonio da Sangallo
* Giulio Romano
* Sebastiano del Piombo (Sebastiano Viniziano)
* Perino Del Vaga
* Giovann'Antonio Lappoli
* Niccolò Soggi
* Niccolò detto il Tribolo
* Pierino da Vinci
* Domenico Beccafumi
* Baccio Bandinelli
* Giuliano Bugiardini
* Cristofano Gherardi
* Jacopo da Pontormo
* Simone Mosca
* Girolamo Genga, Bartolommeo Genga and Giovanbatista San Marino (Giovanni Battista Belluzzi)
* Michele Sanmicheli
* Giovannantonio detto il Soddoma da Verzelli
* Bastiano detto Aristotile da San Gallo
* Benedetto Garofalo and Girolamo da Carpi
* Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, Davide Ghirlandaio and Benedetto Ghirlandaio
* Giovanni da Udine
* Battista Franco
* Francesco Rustichi
* Fra' Giovann'Agnolo Montorsoli
* Francesco detto de' Salviati
* Daniello Ricciarelli da Volterra
* Taddeo Zucchero

Part 6

* Michelangelo Buonarroti (Michelangelo)
* Francesco Primaticcio
* Tiziano da Cadore (Titian)
* Jacopo Sansovino
* Lione Aretino (Leone Leoni)
* Giulio Clovio, manuscript illuminator
* Bronzino
* Giorgio Vasari

Copies of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists Online

* [ “Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists.”] Website created by Adrienne DeAngelis. Currently incomplete, intended to be unabridged, in English.
* [ “Le Vite."] 1550 Unabridged, original Italian.
* [ “Stories Of The Italian Artists From Vasari.”] Translated by E L Seeley, 1908. Abridged, in English.
* [ Le Vite - Edizioni Giuntina e Torrentiniana]
* [ Gli artisti principali citati dal Vasari nelle "Vite" (elenco)]
* [ Excerpts from the "Vite" combined with photos of works mentioned by Vasari.]
* [ Brief "Vita"]



*"The Lives of the Artists" (Oxford World's Classics). Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-283410-X
*"Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Volumes I and II". Everyman's Library, 1996. ISBN 0-679-45101-3

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