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The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art

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Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) was a man of many talents—a sculptor, painter, architect, writer, and scholar—but he is best known for Lives of the Artists, the classic account that singlehandedly invented the genre of artistic biography and established the canon of Italian Renaissance art. Before Vasari’s extraordinary book, art was considered a technical skill rather than an Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) was a man of many talents—a sculptor, painter, architect, writer, and scholar—but he is best known for Lives of the Artists, the classic account that singlehandedly invented the genre of artistic biography and established the canon of Italian Renaissance art. Before Vasari’s extraordinary book, art was considered a technical skill rather than an intellectual pursuit, and artists were mere decorators and craftsmen. It was through Vasari’s visionary writings that artists like Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo came to be regarded as great masters of life as well as art, their creative genius celebrated as a divine gift. Their enduring reputations testify to Vasari’s profound yet unspoken influence on western culture. An advisor to kings and pontiffs—and a confidant to Titian, Donatello, and more—Vasari enjoyed an exhilarating career amid the thrilling culture of Renaissance Italy. In The Collector of Lives, Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney offer a lively and inviting introduction to this pivotal figure in art history, and immerse readers in the world of the Medici of Florence and the popes of Rome. A narrative of intrigue, scandal, and colorful artistic rivalry, this vivid biography shows the great works of western art taking shape under Vasari’s keen eye—and reveals how one Renaissance scholar completely redefined how we look at art.


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Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) was a man of many talents—a sculptor, painter, architect, writer, and scholar—but he is best known for Lives of the Artists, the classic account that singlehandedly invented the genre of artistic biography and established the canon of Italian Renaissance art. Before Vasari’s extraordinary book, art was considered a technical skill rather than an Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) was a man of many talents—a sculptor, painter, architect, writer, and scholar—but he is best known for Lives of the Artists, the classic account that singlehandedly invented the genre of artistic biography and established the canon of Italian Renaissance art. Before Vasari’s extraordinary book, art was considered a technical skill rather than an intellectual pursuit, and artists were mere decorators and craftsmen. It was through Vasari’s visionary writings that artists like Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo came to be regarded as great masters of life as well as art, their creative genius celebrated as a divine gift. Their enduring reputations testify to Vasari’s profound yet unspoken influence on western culture. An advisor to kings and pontiffs—and a confidant to Titian, Donatello, and more—Vasari enjoyed an exhilarating career amid the thrilling culture of Renaissance Italy. In The Collector of Lives, Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney offer a lively and inviting introduction to this pivotal figure in art history, and immerse readers in the world of the Medici of Florence and the popes of Rome. A narrative of intrigue, scandal, and colorful artistic rivalry, this vivid biography shows the great works of western art taking shape under Vasari’s keen eye—and reveals how one Renaissance scholar completely redefined how we look at art.

30 review for The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art

  1. 5 out of 5

    Netta

    A five-star book about the last helpless breath of the Italian Renaissance, or, rather, about artistic life of Florence and Rome in 1511-1574 - a period which happens to coincide with Giorgio Vasari's life. A two-star biography of Giorgio Vasari. A five-star book about the last helpless breath of the Italian Renaissance, or, rather, about artistic life of Florence and Rome in 1511-1574 - a period which happens to coincide with Giorgio Vasari's life. A two-star biography of Giorgio Vasari.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Callon

    This biography is a very well written and a well researched book on a much underrated Renaissance artist. I had never heard of Vasari and am very glad to make his acquaintance after all these years. The authors explained that reviewers' opinions have changed over the centuries from seeing him as a diligent biographer to a sly fabricator to a visionary artist. It is clear that he was an accomplished architect if only from the works he undertook for Cosimo Medici in Florence. What really impressed This biography is a very well written and a well researched book on a much underrated Renaissance artist. I had never heard of Vasari and am very glad to make his acquaintance after all these years. The authors explained that reviewers' opinions have changed over the centuries from seeing him as a diligent biographer to a sly fabricator to a visionary artist. It is clear that he was an accomplished architect if only from the works he undertook for Cosimo Medici in Florence. What really impressed me was his work ethic and his ability to thrive during the politically tumultuous days of Renaissance Italy; he must have had a smooth tongue and a very agile brain to juggle all the conflicting forces of those days - the Pope, the Medici, the republican reformers and the foreign powers of France and Spain who ruled chunks of Italy. I learned that he revived the Florentine Painters Guild to help elevate the rank of the painter from craftsman to be the equal of writers and architects and sculptors. He stressed the importance of learning to draw before painting; to ensure that you understood the first principles of line, figure, shadow, perspective, etc. Unlike many of his contemporaries he readily admired the work of the very few female artists of the Renaissance - Sofonisba Anguissola and Properzia de Rossi. The book rightly lauds Visari for his work as a renowned architect and influential writer/critic. This review was written by Shawn Callon, author of The Diplomatic Spy

  3. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    I'd read about Vasari's work before, but never much about his biography, so the insights the authors pulled from his letters were especially interesting. The chapter about his retreat to the monastery at Camaldoli revealed a side of Vasari that was unexpected and sympathetic. It would have been nice if the tiny space allotted to color inserts had featured more of Vasari's works. The last couple of chapters on influence felt a little disjointed, anti-climatic. I'd read about Vasari's work before, but never much about his biography, so the insights the authors pulled from his letters were especially interesting. The chapter about his retreat to the monastery at Camaldoli revealed a side of Vasari that was unexpected and sympathetic. It would have been nice if the tiny space allotted to color inserts had featured more of Vasari's works. The last couple of chapters on influence felt a little disjointed, anti-climatic.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is an outstanding book. It is the story of Giorgio Vasari, a true “renaissance man” in that he was a painter, a sculptor, an architect, and a writer, who lived from 1511 to 1574 in Florence and Rome. He served Medici Dukes and Popes and was one of the most highly paid artists of his time, performing commissions almost up until the time of his death. He knew everybody in the business. Most importantly, Vasari “wrote the book” on the major Renaissance artists - “Lives of the Painters, Sculpto This is an outstanding book. It is the story of Giorgio Vasari, a true “renaissance man” in that he was a painter, a sculptor, an architect, and a writer, who lived from 1511 to 1574 in Florence and Rome. He served Medici Dukes and Popes and was one of the most highly paid artists of his time, performing commissions almost up until the time of his death. He knew everybody in the business. Most importantly, Vasari “wrote the book” on the major Renaissance artists - “Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects”. This book was first published in 1550 and was updated in 1568 and appears to have remained in print ever since it was published. This is arguably the most widely read book on art history ever and is the book that defined the artistic renaissance in Northern Italy that we have come to know today. Vasari got to define who the greats were and if artists like Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo are better known today than Vasari, it is in part because Vasari said so - he got to write the history. There are some excellent recent biographies on Renaissance geniuses. A recent example is Walter Isaacson’s book on Leonardo da Vinci. It is a reasonable question how an author writing in the 20th or 21st centuries can gain access to the highly sophisticated cultural world of 16th century Italian city states. Noah Charney and Ingrid Rowland are two historians who have approached this problem by focusing on the key volume about the period, which was written by a contemporary of the greats, contains extensive and critically reviewed material obtained at the time, and which has generated a huge critical literature of its own. They focus on Vasari as a central node in a network of important friends and colleagues, an active artist and architect in his own right, and a superb writer and chronicler. Was Vasari correct or truthful about everything? Was he unbiased? Most likely no to both questions. But that is not the point. Everyone is biased in some way - the point is to understand the bias and appreciate whether it leads to a reasonable result. As for accuracy or truthfulness, if Vasari was subject to the scrutiny of other who were also present for the events of the book, that is likely the best that can be hoped for in assessing what happened so long ago. The authors bring their own considerable skills to the project and produce a rich book that is both engaging and an easy read. After reading this, I was even tempted to obtain my own copy of Vasari. The result is astonishing, in that one learns much about Vasari as well as the other greats like Leonardo. I am still fighting a mild depression for having to postpone a family trip to Italy this fall. Reading this wonderful book has made my disappointment easier to take.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt McCormick

    I was fairly disappointed. The book doesn’t know if it wants to be a Vasari biography, a narrative on the history of art, or a treatise on Vasari’s famous book. Regarding the later, other than the broad strokes – the book had three sections each relating to a historical period, there were heroes and villains, Michelangelo is the hero’s hero, Vasari isn’t always accurate, he looked for information from different sources – we get little detail. I’m no literary critic but I think the editing was cl I was fairly disappointed. The book doesn’t know if it wants to be a Vasari biography, a narrative on the history of art, or a treatise on Vasari’s famous book. Regarding the later, other than the broad strokes – the book had three sections each relating to a historical period, there were heroes and villains, Michelangelo is the hero’s hero, Vasari isn’t always accurate, he looked for information from different sources – we get little detail. I’m no literary critic but I think the editing was clumsy or down right poor in places. The authors can be repetitive and confusing. That for example, “For most of the history of art, creative works could be defined by a positive answer to Aristotle’s three questions, which we addressed in an early chapter:” (page 355). Well, no, you didn’t actually address Aristotle’s three questions in an early chapter. You passingly mention Aristotle a couple of times. I will say that I appreciated learning a few Italian words and the history of some words, like malaria and masterpiece. As always, reading anything about Renaissance Italy is an enjoyment but I had hoped for more.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Castles

    Extremely repetitive and in desperate need of good editing, but it’s all forgivable because of the originality and many interesting ways in which it approaches Vasari and the renaissance. I’ve learned a lot of new things.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I am giving this book a grudging four stars because if fills an important void rather than the three stars I think it deserves for the large number of printing errata (what, can no one copyedit or proofread any more?) and the many errors of implication (perhaps not errors of fact) resulting from over-simplification of complicated ideas. This is the third book by Noah Charney I have read and he is starting to really irritate me as a writer. I am less familiar with Ingrid Rowland's bibliography bu I am giving this book a grudging four stars because if fills an important void rather than the three stars I think it deserves for the large number of printing errata (what, can no one copyedit or proofread any more?) and the many errors of implication (perhaps not errors of fact) resulting from over-simplification of complicated ideas. This is the third book by Noah Charney I have read and he is starting to really irritate me as a writer. I am less familiar with Ingrid Rowland's bibliography but I have had no reason to disrespect her as an authority or author. Both are now on dubious list, along with their publisher W.W. Norton. The subject as artist and architect gets short shrift in most art history classes. What is mainly important these days are the biographies he wrote, collected and published of Italian artists and architects of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. I occasionally have assigned passages to students and constantly refer them to the books. (My own copies are ancient Penguin paperbacks dating to 1987.) Like many of the "mannerist" artists--a term that Vasari himself coined--his achievements are not much to the taste of art historians of my generation: subjects are too arcane, figures are anatomically tortured, color is too bright and acid, compositions are too contrived. Once I got past fearing the jeers and disapproval of peers and professors, I developed a enthusiastic palate for those strange flavors. Besides, I'm a modernist and there is something unmistakably modern, even abstract, about the artists associated with that movement. So what are my real issues with the book, beyond the distraction of typos? Rowland and Charney are writing for a general audience while abandoning their scholarly obligations to meticulously cite and document their assertions. Finding the footnotes in the back matter is hard enough. Figuring out exactly how they are meant to support some statement or opinion is even worse. The book starts well enough with a useful summary of the Medici family tree; heaven knows there are masses of them and I wouldn't want to be given the responsibility of creating the Thanksgiving seating plan for that clan. A simplified map of Italy provides a general sense for the relative locations of the cities and town most important in Vasari's life and work. A map of "Central Florence in the Time of Vasari" is the least helpful, but it's okay. There is a section of plates which is incredibly difficult to find and flip too because of the deckle edging on the text pages. More illustrations better spread around the book would be an improvement. The absence of any timeline of Vasari's most important projects, including the "Lives," was a problem. The two chapters of the Introduction plunge one rather theatrically into the question of the remains of the "lost Leonardo" mural, the "Battle of Anghiari" that scholars and scientists pray was somehow preserved below Vasari's renovations and decorations. The National Geographic Channel as aired a couple time "The Da Vinci Detective" which focuses on the ideas of scientist Maurizio Seracini. (http://art-crime.blogspot.com/2013/01...) The writers describe Seracini's explorations as though this were something new and unknown. It's new and unknown in the sense that Donald Trump is constantly presenting information that everyone knows as though he was the vehicle of its original dissemination. Rowland-Charney then explain "How to Read Vasari's Lives," which is a good idea, but in the rest of the book they will quote and refer to Vasari's claims as though they were gospel. Y'can't have it both ways. The subtitle of the book is "Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art." The claim that Vasari either invented the idea or art or created the discipline of art history is a theme in this book that is certainly more opinion than argument. Most of the book is biography, although keeping track of the year and the players gets increasingly difficult as the decades move on. Did I not have a pretty good inventory of 16th century Italian painters, their dates and their accomplishments in my head, I would have had a real struggle. The last few chapters that range back and forth across the evolution of art history and how it functions today is mostly the authors enjoying the presumption of their own scholarship. In the end it is the throw-away statements, the art-historical summations that really get my goat. The "art history" that this book presents as orthodox and definitive is neither. Their discussion of the Council of Trent, the launch of the Catholic Counter-Reformation--and they don't actually use the phrase "Catholic Counter-Reformation"--is only one example but one that makes me most irritable. They suggest that the mannerist style was largely confined to Tuscany and a few other cultural centers, that the art in Rome in the later part of the 16th century (The Council of Trent concluded its twenty-year debates in 1563) hewed to a more classical, Raphaelesque mode. And yet, popes keep dragging Vasari, who died in 1574, back to Rome for important decoration schemes in the Vatican despite their aversion to his style? On page 302, in the last paragraph of chapter 22, they write: "...[Pope] Pius had no use for the elaborate myths and allegories that Vasari and his literary friends had so enjoyed inventing; the new regime favored saints' lives, with lurid tales of martyrdom, and the simplest, most accessible Bible stories...A full generation would pass before a foul-tempered Lombard nicknamed Caravaggio dared to challenge the Council of Trent's vague but intimidating definition of successful religious art." Well it's true, the prescriptions the Council wrote for artists on what kind of art they wanted indeed focused on "the simplest, most accessible Bible stories" and martyrdoms. The purpose was to restore and expand the function of religious art as instruction in correct theology and Catholic devotion. But it is absolutely NOT true that the Caravaggio's arrival in Rome in the 1590s and the theatrical and vividly realistic canvases he produced over the next fifteen years were a "challenge" to "the Council of Trent's vague but intimidating definition of successful religious art." Caravaggio is an artist who personifies the aims of the Catholic Counter-Reformation as articulated by the Council of Trent. It is entirely true that his style and his love for dirty feet and models found in the most sordid corners of Rome and Naples were distasteful to a number of prelates. But just some, not all. This kind of thing is what I call "simplifying an idea down to the point that it is wrong." I see it as a big problem in museums and as a museum educator I worked to root it out in my own workplace and in the thinking of my docents. This is a wonderful book for getting a sense of just how mobile artists were in the 16th century, of ways relationships were forged, of how artists contrived to earn a living. It provides a wealth of biographical detail about Vasari. It is, in many ways, an entertaining read. I can't however get over the mistakes, misapprehensions and misdirections it offers readers. Would I recommend it to my students? Or anyone? I think I would but it would be with a number of caveats about taking assertions, arguments and conclusions with quite a few grains of salt.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eden

    I was hesitant to read this as I’ve only read a few excerpts of Lives but now I’m glad I read this first. When I do get around to reading Lives, I’m sure it’ll be much more enjoyable and enlightening, one reason being that this book forewarned me to the dramatizations and misinformation and straight out lies that make Lives so spicy but are still false. Vasari’s own biases, ones that art historians have relied on for years leading to the overlooking of many capable artists that were brushed off I was hesitant to read this as I’ve only read a few excerpts of Lives but now I’m glad I read this first. When I do get around to reading Lives, I’m sure it’ll be much more enjoyable and enlightening, one reason being that this book forewarned me to the dramatizations and misinformation and straight out lies that make Lives so spicy but are still false. Vasari’s own biases, ones that art historians have relied on for years leading to the overlooking of many capable artists that were brushed off by Vasari, are pointed out and given reasons for that lead back to his dedication to disegno above all art approaches and his own rivalries as an artist. Along with being a dedicated biography of Vasari and an account of the circumstances that led to the writing Lives, I found this book to also be great introduction to understanding the political and social forces influencing the output of Italian art during this time. This book is a sampling of interesting events, nobility, and of course artists from renaissance Italy, indeed I was inclined to study further many of the figures and places that I hadn’t previously heard of. An informative and often hilarious read, I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in art and history but especially as among one’s introduction to the study of art history. However, even without an interest in art history this book is valuable in its ability to enrich ones knowledge about some of the most recognizable figures in history and about 16th century Italy in general.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Arrel

    A very nice and informative period-piece, not about Vasari's "Lives of the Artists," and not so much about Giorgio himself, but mostly about the end of the book's title - the "Invention of Art." And how his "Lives" basically set the canon of Renaissance art, thereby defining what we now consider classic Western art. Life in Medici Florence and Popes from Rome are all around us. Varari was much more than a mere biographer - a sculptor, architect, scholar, writer and painter. As an aside, do NOT mi A very nice and informative period-piece, not about Vasari's "Lives of the Artists," and not so much about Giorgio himself, but mostly about the end of the book's title - the "Invention of Art." And how his "Lives" basically set the canon of Renaissance art, thereby defining what we now consider classic Western art. Life in Medici Florence and Popes from Rome are all around us. Varari was much more than a mere biographer - a sculptor, architect, scholar, writer and painter. As an aside, do NOT miss Vasari's Last Judgment, which covers the barrel of the vault beneath Brunelleschi's dome in the Florence Duomo - if anyone needs a reminder to live a good and proper life, this will be it. Plus it was the inspiration for Michelangelo's later Last Judgment on the wall of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican - I like Giorgio's originality a bit better myself. There is also some fascinating speculation about a buried Da Vinci masterwork behind a wall and mural Vasari added when remodeling Florence's Palazzo Vecchio in 1550 or so - I was unaware of this possibility and enjoyed reading about it. Readers interested in learning more (no matter how much they already think they know) about the enduring impact of Vasari's biographies and about Renaissance life in Florence and elsewhere will benefit from this book - I enjoyed it quite a bit and recommend it even for those with only a passing or peripheral interest in Vasari himself - it is mostly about what we love about Renaissance art and why we love it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Ole

    This is a biography of Giorgio Vasari and informative history of the political and cultural background in which Vasari lived of Renaissance Italy, mostly in Florence and Rome. Lots of useful information is conveyed about artists and art practices in sixteenth century Italy, yet I found the informal, easy-going style intended for the general reader off-putting, if not at times outright offensive. The approach adopted seemed to be one of an instructor of art history making a constant effort to amu This is a biography of Giorgio Vasari and informative history of the political and cultural background in which Vasari lived of Renaissance Italy, mostly in Florence and Rome. Lots of useful information is conveyed about artists and art practices in sixteenth century Italy, yet I found the informal, easy-going style intended for the general reader off-putting, if not at times outright offensive. The approach adopted seemed to be one of an instructor of art history making a constant effort to amuse and entertain a young adult audience with witty remarks and amusing anecdotes, which may well prove useful for such a class, but I believe such an approach is bad taste and inappropriate for a general art history book. Furthermore, the map this book provided proved inadequate: I was forced to check a map of Renaissance Italy on the internet to identify all the places that the always busy Vasari visited to undertake commissions. Furthermore, I needed to also constantly look up images of paintings by Vasari and other artists alluded to in the book; the book provides a selection of such paintings, but far too few.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bobbi Fisher

    At the end 2018 I won’t be surprised if this book has made it to my list of top ten reads of the year. Rowland and Charney have helped me release many prejudices and misinformation about Vasari and about fifteen century art. They put into context how art, the lives of artists, and the social and political situation in Italy were woven together. They give a fresh understanding of the history of the history of art. Much of the book is set in Florence, my absolute favorite city. I can picture the At the end 2018 I won’t be surprised if this book has made it to my list of top ten reads of the year. Rowland and Charney have helped me release many prejudices and misinformation about Vasari and about fifteen century art. They put into context how art, the lives of artists, and the social and political situation in Italy were woven together. They give a fresh understanding of the history of the history of art. Much of the book is set in Florence, my absolute favorite city. I can picture the buildings and works of art mentioned. As I read at home, I was also reading in Florence, my home away from home.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    Am glad that we read this book in Book Group, which everyone liked. At first, it was a bit hard to get into the book, as it seemed rather academic. However, as soon as I got to about page 50 or 60, I was hooked and really enjoyed it. Very well researched and written. It seems to me that one should be a lover of History of Art, and more especially of Florence, Italy, and the Renaissance period, to really appreciated this tome. If not, the reader could be a bit bored and overwhelmed by it all.

  13. 4 out of 5

    MVN

    Wonderful book about Giorgio Vasari, artist of Italian Renaissance and the father of art history as we know it. It is not necessary to read his Lives to appreciate this text but I did and it was very insightful. This book also contains other interesting historical facts related to it’s subject matter, sometimes in a very hilarious manner.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marshall

    A great overview of the life of Vasari, the author of The Lives of the Artists. Vasari’s Mannerist style of art is no longer in fashion, but his biography of artists of the Renaissance is probably the best known original source for the artists of the 14-16th centuries.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Farabaugh

    This book does not suffer from becoming just a list of works as other books about artists often do. The author puts this book into good context of Italian history and interweaves the lives of other artists in his biographies very well. This was a good, not great book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Russel Henderson

    Fun, engaging read aimed largely at a pop art history/pop history audience. It blends the biography with the political history with the art history in ways that are detailed without being overly tangential.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Kaelin

    Really wonderful popular read. Just the right mixture of scholarship, cheeky anecdotes, and a steady pace. I can't comment too much on the accuracy of everything, but I don't much care to nitpit with such a lively read. Really wonderful popular read. Just the right mixture of scholarship, cheeky anecdotes, and a steady pace. I can't comment too much on the accuracy of everything, but I don't much care to nitpit with such a lively read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah

    A very detailed book about the lives and art of Vasari, Michelangelo, Da Vinci and other Renaissance artists. Very informative! It has inspired me to learn more about the Renaissance, and to read Lives by Vasari. If you are in the Cleveland area, a Vasari drawing is currently on display.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Christiansen

    An entertaining biography of Giorgio Vasari as well as insights on the Medici Family and Renaissance art in Italy. Looking forward to reading Vasari's The Lives of The Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. An entertaining biography of Giorgio Vasari as well as insights on the Medici Family and Renaissance art in Italy. Looking forward to reading Vasari's The Lives of The Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Interesting examination of Vasari's personal biography interwoven with that of his Lives. A more thorough edit would have improved the quality of the writing, but overall, enjoyable and educational. Interesting examination of Vasari's personal biography interwoven with that of his Lives. A more thorough edit would have improved the quality of the writing, but overall, enjoyable and educational.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura Raines

    An excellent reassessment of Vasari's contribution to art and the beginnings of the discipline of art history. Thoroughly enjoyed my trip back to Florence and Rome. An excellent reassessment of Vasari's contribution to art and the beginnings of the discipline of art history. Thoroughly enjoyed my trip back to Florence and Rome.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Olga Vannucci

    He was keen for the most part On the Florentine artists.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Clair

    Excellent read. Provides a thorough history of Vasari's life and times for the novice and expert alike. Excellent read. Provides a thorough history of Vasari's life and times for the novice and expert alike.

  24. 5 out of 5

    randy

    i was not expecting to find this book interesting because i am not an art person. i did find this book interesting because of the history story line.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mario Russo

    Awesome complement to Varasi's Lives of the Artists. Awesome complement to Varasi's Lives of the Artists.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Oliver James

    Good book, however, at times I felt a little bored with the book. I would still recommend it though to anyone interested in art history, Renaissance Italy, or history in general.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Keane Neal-Riquier

    The book is filled with the quiet questions that only art can ask.

  28. 5 out of 5

    TBV

    This book commences with a scene in the Sala di CinqueCento in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Larger-than-life frescoes adorn the walls. These were painted by Giorgio Vasari in 1563. The question is this: “Buried beneath one of the four frescoed walls may lie a treasure that, in the imagination of the general public, is of far greater importance—one that, should it still exist, has not been seen for five centuries. Hiding behind Vasari’s fresco could be a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci, on This book commences with a scene in the Sala di CinqueCento in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Larger-than-life frescoes adorn the walls. These were painted by Giorgio Vasari in 1563. The question is this: “Buried beneath one of the four frescoed walls may lie a treasure that, in the imagination of the general public, is of far greater importance—one that, should it still exist, has not been seen for five centuries. Hiding behind Vasari’s fresco could be a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci, one that tells the tale of a battle between two of the greatest painters of Renaissance Italy and hinges on a mystery sparked by another masterwork by Giorgio Vasari, a book titled Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.” The authors of ’The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Ar’ return to this question at the end of the book. Tuscan artist Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) was born in the town of Arezzo which is not far from Florence. Today one thinks of Vasari primarily in terms of his famous ‘Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects’ which has been a useful source for students and lovers of art for centuries. However, Vasari was a successful painter in his own right, even if his art is not comparable to the giants of the art world. He was also an architect of note - he was heavily involved in the design of the famous Uffizi in Florence which now houses one of the most important art galleries in the world with a fabulous art collection, particularly of the Renaissance period. Vasari also built the Vasari Corridor which connects the Uffizi with the Palazzo Pitti on the opposite side of the River Arno. Vasari was instrumental in the design and construction of the Villa Giulia in Rome which has a notable collection of Etruscan artefacts. And of course Vasari was also a writer. A primary focus of this book is how to read Vasari’s ’Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects”. There are many inaccuracies in Vasari’s work, and he is also undoubtedly biased towards Tuscan and in particular Florentine artists. He also had personal biases against artists who didn’t conform to his ideals. The ’Collector of Lives’ places Vasari’s writing in context. It takes the reader on a whirlwind tour through the labyrinth that is Italian Renaissance History, and it explains the thinking and the wit of that time, so that readers may have a better understanding of how he came to write and why he wrote the way he did. There is often a play of words in his work which may either be lost in translation or simply lost to the modern mind. There are allusions to events and people which require some background knowledge to appreciate what is being said. There are some comparisons to highlight points that Vasari wishes to make, and he might for example cast one artist as a hero whilst another is juxtaposed as a villain. Vasari embellishes some facts, and he also indulges in gossip. Throughout this book it is stressed how important the Florentine concept of disegno was to Vasari. This refers to the preliminary drawing and sketching. Vasari was very scathing of those who did not employ this method. He collected a portfolio of drawings by famous artists. Vasari worshipped Michelangelo, but he also idolised Leonardo and Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio). Vasari knew many of the contemporary artists, and he also had excellent connections. As a result he was ideally placed to write his ’Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects’. ’The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art’ includes many interesting little details about life in Italy during Vasari’s lifetime, and shows who or what influenced Vasari in his thinking and his art, architecture and writing. It shows us how to “see” through Vasari’s eyes. The authors used both primary and secondary sources in their research, and these are fully detailed. There are also extensive notes as well as a few pictures. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book on the life and times of Giorgio Vasari, and his legacy to future generations of art lovers. Giorgio Vasari Six Tuscan Poets by Vasari

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dian Jordan

    "A book by an artist about artists addressed to artists" is well-stated in the book. The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art is recommended for those interested in learning about the birth of new field of study - art history, or those planning to visit the art centers of Italy: Florence, Rome, Venice. Authors Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney write in an understandable and engaging manner that brings the 1550 Giorgio Vasari publication to a new audience of art lovers. Vasar "A book by an artist about artists addressed to artists" is well-stated in the book. The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art is recommended for those interested in learning about the birth of new field of study - art history, or those planning to visit the art centers of Italy: Florence, Rome, Venice. Authors Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney write in an understandable and engaging manner that brings the 1550 Giorgio Vasari publication to a new audience of art lovers. Vasari's autobiographical text introduces us to Vasari and the biographies of his contemporaries: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and others. In addition, the book outlines the sociological contexts of the time. Academic, political, moral, religious, and social stratification within societies are given a proper framework for understanding the importance of Renaissance art, philosophy and science. This review is based on an Advanced Reading Copy received compliments of W.W. Norton & Co and GoodReads.

  30. 5 out of 5

    KarnagesMistress

    I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. It is an advance reading copy.

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