Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574) was an Italian painter and writer, born in Arezzo, Tuscany. He is best known for his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1568), which has been described as “the cornerstone of art-historical writing”. Vasari’s work was instrumental in the ascension of Florence to artistic pre-eminence in sixteenth-century Italy.
Vasari showed a keen interest in mathematics, geometry and architecture from an early age. His father died when he was only eleven, and Vasari was put under the care of his uncle, an artist named Domenico Vespucci. Domenico took him on as an apprentice in his workshop, where he learned drawing and design.
Vasari’s first major painting was of The Battle of Marciano in 1529, painted for Duke Alessandro de’ Medici. He painted a number of large-scale battle scenes, often with multiple episodes from the same conflict.
In 1547 he was appointed architect to the Cathedral of Florence, and in this role he designed and oversaw the construction of several important buildings, including the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi.
In 1550 Vasari was commissioned to paint a fresco cycle in the Palazzo Vecchio, depicting the life of Cosimo I de’ Medici. This cycle proved to be one of Vasari’s most important works, and established him as one of the most prominent Italian painters of his time.
In 1563 Vasari was made court painter to Cosimo I de’ Medici, and in this role he painted a number of important portraits, including those of the Duke himself, his wife Eleonora of Toledo, and his children.
In 1574 Vasari published his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, a work that would prove to be hugely influential in the development of art-historical writing.
Vasari died in Florence in 1574, and was buried in the Church of Santa Croce. His remains were later moved to the Vasari Corridor in the Palazzo Vecchio.