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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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Prolegomena to Giorgio Vasari’s Prefaces xxxi


Prolegomena to Giorgio Vasari’s Prefaces Let us come to matters, which are less obscure: to the attainment of perfection in the arts, their ruin, their restoration, or to put it better still, their rebirth.1 —Giorgio Vasari, Vite This introduction has two goals: 1) to provide a general assessment of the main concepts that Vasari and his collaborators present in the prefaces and 2) to inspire readers to make further observations and studies of these prefaces.2 In the Vite, Vasari composes four prefaces (proemi). The Preface to the Whole is a prolegomenon to the Vite. The three others are explanatory essays on the nature of art. Each preface precedes a particular section of the biogra- phies. The prefaces as well as the dedicatory letters are principally concerned with the following topics: 1) divine and human creativity; 2) influences of artistic and humanistic sources on artists’ works; 3) criteria for judging the fine arts, including the supremacy of drawing (design or disegno) in the fine arts or arts of design, and the creation of aesthetic standards for beauty. Vasari comments on the intellectual and scientific ability of artists by emphasizing artists’ interest in mathematics, perspective, proportion and anatomy. By the sixteenth century, artists, including Vasari himself, are claim- ing that their work is the result of divine inspiration and that they are creative geniuses. These artists believe that they work in a manner similar to God’s: they do not just imitate nature but create a new nature (they surpass nature) and a...

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