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The Lives of the Artists

Giorgio Vasari – the father of art history writing. His Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (more commonly referred to as The Lives of the Artists) is one of the most quoted books of art history.

Whether you get your hands on a condensed version, like the one pictured, or a full three volume edition, Vasari will keep you entertained, educated and persuaded. He covers artists spanning a 300-year period from Cimabue to Vasari himself.

Remember to always double check facts though. It’s likely most of his sources were secondary, rather than primary (he couldn’t exactly ask Giotto about his life who had been dead for 213 years by the date of publication), and stories are easily changed or misunderstood, deliberately or accidentally. It’s also important to remember Vasari is a Tuscan who saw Tuscan art as the supreme and, let’s face it, could potentially be deliberately misleading us to make his favoured artists – the greatest of which, for him, was Michelangelo – greater in our eyes.

All in all, while there are quite a few… inaccuracies, shall we say… there is no greater source of information.

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