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Giorgio Vasari’s «Prefaces»

Art and Theory- With a foreword by Wolfram Prinz

Liana De Girolami Cheney

Giorgio Vasari’s Prefaces: Art and Theory provides students and scholars alike with the opportunity to study and understand the art, theory, and visual culture of Giorgio Vasari and sixteenth century Italy. For the first time all of Vasari’s Prefaces from the Lives of the Artists (1568) are included translated into English as well as in the original Italian. Also included is an English translation of Giovanni Battista Adriani’s letter to Giorgio Vasari enlightening Vasari on the art of the ancient masters.
Through the eyes of Vasari, this book captures the creative achievements of his fellow artists – how they adopt nature and the classical tradition as their muses and how they ingeniously interpret the secular and religious themes of the past and present. Vasari himself is lauded for the transformation of the artist from one of being a mere laborer to one who imbues his work with intellectual depth and is recognized as a creator of beautiful visual myths.


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Summary of the Letters and the Prefaces The Dedicatory Letters The dedicatory letters to Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici are intended to ensure the duke’s continued patronage and encourage his involvement in Vasari’s artistic enterprises. In the letters (Chapter One), Vasari praises his fellow artists as well as himself. At the same time, he pleads for the duke’s understanding of his limited writing skills: “I have a hand rather for brushes than for the pen, and a head rather for designs than for writing.” Letter to His Fellow Artists Vasari explains the goals of his Vite to his fellow artists: “For the glory of art and to honor artists.” He hopes that his efforts are appreciated since he too is an artist: “I am thankful to you, he says, and re joice to be a participant in your company, even though my role is small.” (Chapter One) Letter from Giovanni Battista di M. Marcello Adriani to Vasari Adriani’s letter to Vasari briefly recounts the names and the works of the “most excellent” ancient painters and bronze and marble sculptors (Chapter Two). The letter begins by praising Vasari for his accomplishments. Then he comments on the origins of artistic culture, mentioning the importance of Egyptian artists. He explains how the Greeks are the first to master the art of painting—Cleophantes of Corinth, Polygnotus of Thasos, Apollodorus, Zeuxis, Parrhasisu, Timantes, Apelles—calling attention to male and female painters, including Marcia and Timarete. Adriani also mentions two Roman painters, Fabius and Salus....

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