Are you ready for the second instalment of Annina Teatime’s all-time favourite books a.k.a. Books that Changed my Life?! I’m sure you are so here goes:
Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ piú ecellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani da Cimabue insino a’ tempi nostri (Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects), 1550 and 1568
Vasari’s Lives are widely regarded as the first true piece of art history writing. So of course as an art historian I have had my share of Vasari (1511-1574). The enormous volume (or volumes if you go for an annotated edition) contains artist biographies from Cimabue to Giorgio Vasari – the writer himself as he was not only an art historian but also an artist. Michelangelo is presented as the highpoint of all art so he is the ultimate destination for the +1000 pages even though Vasari includes a sort of appendix with himself and Bronzino among others. And when studying Michelangelo Vasari’s biography is one of the good sources to his life from Michelangelo’s own time and read with a critical attitude Vasari is also a wonderful source to how art and artists were perceived in the 16th Century.
So how did this book change my life? For starters it assured me that I wanted to become an art historian.
A year before I started my studies at the university I remember being very impressed with an American guy I met in Rome who had read (in) Vasari – and I hadn’t at the time. I so wanted to read that book and be part of the crowd that read such books that the situation of sitting at a dinner table with a person who knew of Vasari confirmed my until then slightly wavering wish to study history of art. And Vasari is still one of those everlasting signs of good education to me. It is a specific one but at least being an art historian this is an obligatory classic. And not a boring read either. It’s great in Italian too…