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Vasari, Giorgio
Le vite de’ piu eccellenti Pittori, Scultori et Architetti,

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The most renowned and serious art history book.

A superb copy, in an exceptional condition:
a full Italian morocco.



Vasari, Giorgio. Le vite de’ piu eccellenti Pittori, Scultori et Architetti.
Bologna, 1647.

3 volumes 4to [239 x 170 mm] of : I/ (10) ll., 76 pp., 432 pp. ; II/ (1) l., 543 pp. ; III/ (22) ll., 407 pp., (1) p., (66) ll.

Red morocco, gilt fillets around the covers, ribbed spine, in the upper panel title in gilt letters, gilt edges, some browned leaves in part II. Contemporary Italian binding.

The most renowned and serious art history book, containing the biographies of painters, sculptors, architects from the 13th to the 16th centuries, and the study of their works.

The book was offered for the first time to the public in 1550.

Second illustrated edition, based on the one the Giuntas published in Florence in 1568.

The text was enlarged with commentaries, printed in the margins, and illustration, with some portraits.

PMM, 88 (éd. de 1568 : “ It became a model for subsequent writings on the history of arts… for its period it has remained the chief authority…”) ; Mortimer, II, 514 (éd. de 1568) ; Schlosser, p. 289 ; Graesse, VI, 2nde partie, 264.

Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), the biographer of the Renaissance.

With Le vite de’ piu eccelenti pittori, scultori e architettori, Vasari, who was a painter and an architect, composed a text of the utmost importance, that supported and celebrated the great artistic movement of the Italian Renaissance, a term he was the first to coin (rinascimento). In 1563, he founded the Academy of Drawing of Florence, whose first president was Michelangelo, and among whose students were Titian, Tintoretto and others.

For a long time, this institution set the bases for the teachings of fine arts, which was supposed to be philosophical and technical.

The illustration is made up of a title-frontispiece by Bloemaert based on Giovanni Angelo Camino, repeated in each volume, and 152 portraits in beautiful frames, all engraved on wood.

The lives Vasari left us of the Italian masters, many of whom had been his friends, are for him a most durable and glorious feat. He had the merit of understanding the greatness of the artists of his time. We can only deplore the fact that he had no French equivalent.”

(E. Picot, Cat. James de Rothschild, 2505)

“Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori” is considered perhaps the most famous, and even today the most-read work of the older literature of art”, (M. Marmor) “some of the Italian Renaissance’s most influential writing on art” and “one of the founding texts in art history”. (V. Ginsburgh and S. Weyers)

Vasari’s Vite has been described as “by far the most influential single text for the history of Renaissance art” (Professor Hope) and “the most important work of Renaissance biography of artists.” (M. Marmor)

“The lives of the most excellent painters sculptors and architects” is the first modern History of Art.

It has made Vasari’s name immortal though in his own day he was considered first and foremost a painter and architect.

“Vasari’s excellent sense of narrative and lively style combined with his wide personal acquaintance makes his “Lives” a vital contribution to our understanding of the character and psychology of the great artists of the Renaissance, a term (rinascita) which he was the first writer to use.” (PMM, 88)

A superb copy in an exceptional condition: a full Italian morocco.

Provenance : Gerald & Dorothy Wellesley, with ex-libris.

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