Lives of the Painters

Vasari, Giorgio. The Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Vol. 1. Translated by A.B. Hinds. London: J.M. Dent, 1927.

The Lives of the Painters is about exactly what the title states – biographies of painters and sculptors and architects, beginning with Giovanni Cimabue, a religious painter from Florence, Italy. It’s pretty amazing to think his childhood was like any other normal boy, enthralled with art over school work. I could see him doodling with his bird feather and dye! (Cimabue, 1240 – 1302.) Other artist biographies included Arnolfo Di Lapo (1232 – 1302), a father and son team named Niccola and Giovanni Pisani (1205 – 1328),  Andrea Tafi (1213? – 1294), Gaddo Gaddi (1259 – 1333), Gotto (1216 – 1293?) and on and on.

Disclaimer: Vasari admits that the statements made about some lives are not to be accepted as absolute truth. In fact, many of the footnotes correct Vasari and point out inaccuracies. Interesting. But, not interesting for me to keep reading. I made a decision that any biography that had an inaccuracy didn’t deserve to be read so I skipped a lot. A lot. Another frustrating element to the text is the number of times Vasari says there is more to the story, “but I will not relate it in an effort to avoid being tedious…” Nothing drives me crazier than someone saying “I have something to tell you…oh, never mind!”

Great line, “In short, the latter part of the work is much better or rather less bad than is the beginning, although the whole, when compared with the works of to-day, rather excites laughter than pleasure or admiration” (p 56).

Reason read: October is Art Appreciation month.

Author fact: According to the first volume of Lives of the Painters, Giorgio Vasari was born at Arezzo in 1511 and died in Florence in 1574. It blows my mind I am reading the words of someone who died over 400 years ago.

Book trivia: Lives of the Painters has four volumes. To be honest I cannot imagine reading all four volumes!

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).



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