Trivium Art History
Giorgio Vasari

The Lives of the Artists

by Giorgio Vasari, 1550

The first encyclopedia of artists

Giorgio Vasari was a painter and architect during the Italian Renaissance — a contemporary of Raphael and Michelangelo. But Giorgio was more than an artist, he was in many ways the father of Art History. In 155o he published his volume "The  Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects" — an exhaustive (and imaginative) record of the artists of his day, and those who came before. He embraced a mission of memory, to save the great artists from the horror of 'second death' saying:

"Pondering over this matter many a time in my own mind, and recognizing, from the example not only of the ancients but of the moderns as well, that the names of very many architects, sculptors, and painters, both old and modern, together with innumerable most beautiful works wrought by them, are going on being forgotten and destroyed little by little, and in such wise, in truth, that nothing can be foretold for them but a certain and wellnigh immediate death; and wishing to defend them as much as in me lies from this second death, and to preserve them as long as may be possible in the memory of the living." — Lives of the Artists: Prologue to the Work 

We at Trivium love Visari — we owe him for laying a foundation that has made all our work possible. The Lives of the Artists is an indespensible book in our library — and a colorful entry point to into a rich, living history.

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Preface to the Work

It was the wont of the finest spirits in all their actions, through a burning desire for glory, to spare no labour, however grievous, in order to bring their works to that perfection which might render them impressive and marvelous to the whole world.

Preface to the Lives

Thus far have I thought fit to discourse from the beginning of sculpture and of painting, and peradventure at greater length than was necessary in this place, which I have done, indeed, not so much carried away by my affection for art as urged by the common benefit and advantage of our craftsmen.

The Life of Agnolo Bronzino

Beginning with the oldest and most important, I shall speak first of Agnolo called Bronzino, a Florentine painter truly most rare and worthy of all praise.


...In the first is a river of red wine, about which are singers and musicians, both men and women, as it were drunk, and a naked woman who is sleeping, so beautiful that she might be alive, together with other figures; and on this picture Tiziano wrote his name.

The Life of Giotto

The boy not only equalled his master, but ... brought back to life the true art of painting

Piero della Francesca

I have heard tell, he had made some heads from nature, so beautiful and so well executed that speech alone was wanting to give them life.


He was brought up in Venice, and took unceasing delight in the joys of love

The Life of Raphael Sanzio

Raffaello continued to divert himself beyond measure with the pleasures of love; whence it happened that, having on one occasion indulged in more than his usual excess, he returned to his house in a violent fever.

The Life of Sandro Botticelli

It is not possible to describe the beauty that Sandro depicted