Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects  

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"Many writers have asserted that painting and sculpture originated with the Egyptians; others attribute to the Chaldeans the discovery of the bas-relief, and give to the Greeks the invention of painting: for my own part, I hold that a knowledge of drawing, the creative principle of all art, has existed since the beginning of the world." --Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Vasari, paraphrased in A Brief History of the Painters of All Schools

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The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, or Le Vite delle più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori as it was originally known in Italian, is a series of artist biographies written by 16th century Italian painter and architect Giorgio Vasari.



Vasari's Vite is the most influential single text for the history of Renaissance art" and "the most important work of Renaissance biography of artists". (Gombrich) Its influence is situated mainly in three domains: as an example for contemporary and later biographers and art historians, as a defining factor in the view on the Renaissance and the role of Florence and Rome in it, and as a major source of information on the lives and works of early Italian artists.

The Vite have been translated wholly or partially into many languages, including English, Dutch, German, Spanish and French.

Flood of artist biographies

The Vite started a wave of artist biographies. Other, mainly 17th century biographers often were called the Vasari of their country. Karel Van Mander in the Netherlands was probably the first Vasarian author with his Het Schilderboeck (The Painters' Book) from 1604, the first comprehensive list of biographies of painters from the Low Countries. Joachim von Sandrart (1606-1688), author of Deutsche Akademie, was known as the "German Vasari". In England, Aglionby's Painting Illustrated from 1685 was largely based on Vasari as well.

View of the Renaissance

The Vite is also important as the basis for discussions on the development of style. It influenced the view art historians had of the Early Renaissance for a long time, placing too much emphasis on the achievements of Florentian and Roman artists while ignoring those of the rest of Italy and certainly the artists from the rest of Europe.

Source of information

Finally, it has also been for centuries the most important source for info on Early Renaissance Italian (and especially Tuscan) painters and the attribution of their paintings. In 1899, an author like John Addington Symonds used the Vite as one of his basic sources for the description of artists in his 7 books on Renaissance in Italy, and nowadays it is still, despite its obvious biases and shortcomings, the basis for the biography of many artists like Leonardo da Vinci.


The Vite contains the biographies of many important Italian artists, and is also adopted as a sort of classical reference guide for their names, which are sometimes used in different ways. The following list respects the order of the book, as divided into its three parts. The book starts with a dedication to Cosimo de' Medici and a preface, and then starts with technical and background texts about architecture, sculpture, and painting. A second preface follows, introducing the actual "Vite" in parts 2 to 5. What follows is the complete list from the second (1568) edition. In a few cases, different very short biographies were given in one section.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

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