Giorgio Vasari

The Lives of the Artists
The first encyclopedia of artists

The Lives of the Artists, Giorgio Vasari

Giorgio Vasari was a painter and architect during the Italian Renaissance, a contemporary of Raphael and Michelangelo. But Giorgio was more than an artist, he was the father of Art History. In 155o he published his volume “The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects,” an exhaustive (and imaginative) record of the artists of his day, and those who came before. He embraced a mission of memory, to save the great artists from the horror of ‘second death’ saying:

“Pondering over this matter many a time in my own mind, and recognizing, from the example not only of the ancients but of the moderns as well, that the names of very many architects, sculptors, and painters, both old and modern, together with innumerable most beautiful works wrought by them, are going on being forgotten and destroyed little by little, and in such wise, in truth, that nothing can be foretold for them but a certain and wellnigh immediate death; and wishing to defend them as much as in me lies from this second death, and to preserve them as long as may be possible in the memory of the living.” — Lives of the Artists: Prologue to the Work

I love Vasari. Generations of art historians owe him for laying a foundation that has made all our work possible. The Lives of the Artists is indespensible, and a colorful entry point to into a rich, living history.

Reed Enger, "The Lives of the Artists, The first encyclopedia of artists," in Obelisk Art History, Published February 15, 2016; last modified October 31, 2022,

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Giorgio Vasari, The ArtistsPortrait of Giorgio Vasari

Giorgio Vasari

The first art historian

1511 – 1574

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