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David Cast on Vasari’s words

3 September 2019

Vasari’s words

Review of:

Douglas Biow, Vasari’s Words: The Lives of the Artists as a History of Ideas in the Italian Renaissance, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2018, pp. 256, 41 b/w illus. ISBN9781108472050 (hbk).

David Cast (Bryn Mawr) 21/DC1

Abstract: This is a slim, careful volume that in its implication, ranges far and wide across the culture of the arts in the Renaissance. The immediate subject is a group of terms that appear in the account of the lives of the artists – though that exact word he never used – written by Giorgio Vasari and published first in 1550. This is a text that Biow is prepared to sees as more than a set of stories or of biased judgments, more indeed than a simple source of information, but rather as a record of values and culturally shared forms enlisted, as he sees its purpose, in the solving of artistic problems defined within the material processes of the making of art . All ways of doing things have their advantages and disadvantages; here in this study what we might think of as both the encyclopaedic and the more general ways of reading Vasari are thoroughly and nicely balanced.

Key words: Vasari, Le Vite, Accademia del Disegno, professionalism, genius, night

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