Agnolo Bronzino

Agnolo Gaddi

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Andreadi di Bonaiuto

Andrea del Castagno

Andrea del Sarto

Andrea di Bartolo

Andrea Mantegna

Antonello da Messina

Antonio del Pollaiuolo

Bartolo di Fredi

Bartolomeo di Giovanni

Benozzo Gozzoli

Benvenuto di Giovanni

Bernard Berenson

Bernardo Daddi

Bianca Cappello

Bicci di Lorenzo

Bonaventura Berlinghieri

Buonamico Buffalmacco

Byzantine art



Dietisalvi di Speme

Domenico Beccafumi

Domenico di Bartolo

Domenico di Michelino

Domenico veneziano


Duccio di Buoninsegna

Eleonora da Toledo

Federico Zuccari

Filippino Lippi

Filippo Lippi

Fra Angelico

Fra Carnevale

Francesco di Giorgio Martini

Francesco Pesellino

Francesco Rosselli

Francia Bigio

Gentile da Fabriano


Domenico Ghirlandaio


Giorgio Vasari

Giotto di bondone

Giovanni da Modena

Giovanni da San Giovanni

Giovanni di Francesco

Giovanni di Paolo

Giovanni Toscani

Girolamo di Benvenuto

Guidoccio Cozzarelli

Guido da Siena

Il Sodoma

Jacopo del Sellaio

Jacopo Pontormo

Lippo Memmi

Lippo Vanni

Lorenzo Ghiberti

Lorenzo Monaco

Lo Scheggia

Lo Spagna

Luca Signorelli


masolino da panicale

master of monteoliveto

master of sain tfrancis

master of the osservanza

matteo di giovanni

memmo di filippuccio

neroccio di bartolomeo

niccolo di segna

paolo di giovanni fei

paolo ucello


piero della francesca

piero del pollaiolo

piero di cosimo

pietro aldi

pietro lorenzetti



sandro botticelli

sano di pietro


simone martini

spinello aretino

taddeo di bartolo

taddeo gaddi

ugolino di nerio



Giorgio Vasari, Cimabue, portrait medallion in the upper frieze in the Sala Grande, north-east wall, Casa Vasari, Florence
Travel guide for Tuscany

Giorgio Vasari | Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects

Giovanni Cimabue


GIOVANNI CIMABUE (circa 1240-circa 1302)
With the History of the Building of the Church of San Francesco at Assisi


THE GREAT FLOOD of misfortunes, by which poor Italy had been afflicted and overwhelmed, had not only reduced to ruins all buildings of note throughout the land, but what was of far more importance, had caused an utter lack of the very artists themselves. At this time, when the supply seemed entirely exhausted, in the year 1240, by the will of God, there was born in the city of Florence, Giovanni, surnamed Cimabue, of the noble family of that name, who was to shed the first light on the art of painting. He, as he grew, being judged by his father and others to possess a fine acute intellect, was sent to Santa Maria Novella to be instructed in letters by a relative of his who taught grammar to the novices of that convent.

But instead of attending to his lessons, Cimabue spent all the day in painting on his books and papers,men, horses, houses, and such things. To this natural inclination fortune was favorable, for certain painters of Greece, who had been summoned by the rulers of Florence to restore the almost forgotten art of painting in the city, began at this time to work in the chapel of the Gondi in Santa Maria Novella; and Cimabue would often escape from school and stand all day watching them, until his father and the painters themselves judging that he was apt for painting, he was placed under their instruction. Nature, however, aided by constant practice, enabled him greatly to surpass both in design and coloring the masters who had taught him. For they, never caring to advance in their art, did everything not in the good manner of ancient Greece, but after the rude manner of those times.

He painted in churches both in Florence and Pisa, and made the name of Cimabue famous everywhere, on which account he was summoned to Assisi, a city of Umbria, to paint in company with some Greek masters the lower church of S. Francis. For in those times the order of the Minor Friars of S. Francis having been confirmed by Pope Innocent III, both the devotion and the numbers of the friars grew so great not only in Italy, but in all parts of the world, that there was scarcely a city of any account which did not build for them churches and convents at great expense. Two years before the death of St. Francis, while that saint was absent preaching, Fra Elia was prior in Assisi, and built a church for Our Lady; but when St. Francis was dead, and all Christendom was coming to visit the body of a saint who in life and death was known by all to have been the friend of God, and every man at the holy spot was making gifts according to his power, it was ordained that the church begun by Fra Eli should be made much larger and more magnificent. But there being a scarcity of good architects, and the work needing an excellent one, for it was necessary to build on a very steep hill at the roots of which runs a torrent called Tescio, after much consideration they brought to Assisi, as the best architect that could then be found, one Master Jacopo Tedesco. He having considered the site, and heard the will of the Fathers, who held a chapter-general for the purpose in Assisi, designed a very fine church and convent, making in the model three storeys, one below ground, and two churches, one of which on the first slope should serve as the vestibule, having a very large colonnade round it, and the other for the sanctuary. And he arranged that you should go up from the first to the second by a most convenient order of stairs, which wound round the larger chapel, dividing into two, to enter the second church. To this he gave the form of a T, making it five times as long as it was wide.

In the larger chapel of the lower church was placed the altar, and below it, when it was finished, was laid with solemn ceremonies the body of St. Francis. And because the tomb which encloses the body of the glorious saint is in the first, that is the lowest church, which no one ever enters, the doors of it are walled up, and around the altar are gratings of iron, with rich ornaments of marble and mosaic. This work was brought to a conclusion in the space of four years, and no more, by the skill of Master Jacopo and the careful labors of Fra Elia. After his death there were made round the lower church twelve fine towers, and in each of them a staircase from the ground to the top, and in time there were added many chapels and many rich ornaments. As for Master Jacopo, by this work he acquired such fame through all Italy that he was called to Florence, and received there with the greatest honor possible,although according to the habit the Florentines have (and used to have still more) of shortening names, they called him not Jacopo but Lapo all the days of his life.

So in the lower church Cimabue painted in company with the Greeks, and greatly surpassed the Greek painters. Therefore, his courage rising, he began to paint by himself in fresco in the upper church, and painted many things, especially the ascent of the Virgin into heaven, and the Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles. This work, being truly very great and rich and well executed, must in my judgment have astonished the world in those days, painting having been so long in such darkness, and to myself, who saw it in the year 1563, it appeared most beautiful, and I marvelled how Cimabue could have had such light in the midst of such heavy gloom. Being called to Florence, however, Cimabue did not continue his labors, but they were finished many years after by Giotto, as we will tell in its place.

After his return to Florence he made for the church of S. Maria Novella a picture of our Lady, which work was of larger size than those that had been made before that time, and the angels that stand round, although they are in the Greek manner, yet show something of the modern style. Therefore this work caused such marvel to the people of that time, never having seen a better, that it was borne in solemn procession with trumpets and great rejoicing from the house of Cimabue to the church, and he himself received great honours and rewards. It is said, and you may read it in certain records of old pictures, that while Cimabue was painting this picture, King Charles of Anjou passed through Florence, and among other entertainments provided for him by the people of the city, they took him to see Cimabue's picture; and as no one had seen it before it was shown to the king, there was a great concourse of all the men and women of Florence to see it, with the greatest rejoicing and running together in the world. From the gladness of the whole neighborhood that part was called Borgo Allegri, the Joyful Quarter, and though it is now within the walls of the city, it has always preserved the same name.



Cimabue, Crucifix (detail), 1268-71, tempera on wood, 336 x 267 cm, San Domenico, Arezzo


Cimabue, The Madonna and Child in Majesty Surrounded by AngelsMaestà, Musée du Louvre, Paris





Il Crocifisso di Arezzo

Cimabue, Crucifix (detail), 1268-71, tempera on wood, 336 x 267 cm, San Domenico, Arezzo



Il Crocifisso di Santa Croce

Cimabue, Crucifix (detail), 1287-1288, Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence.



The Madonna and Child in Majesty Surrounded by Angels

Cimabue, The Madonna and Child in Majesty Surrounded by Angels (detail), c. 1280, Musée du Louvre, Paris



Cimabue's frescoes in Assisi

Cimabue, Fresco, Crucifix, 1280, 350 x 690 cm Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Cimabue, Maestà (Santa Trinita Madonna), 1280-1285, Uffizi Gallery, Florence



The Flagellation of Christ (ca. 1280)

Cenni di Pepo (Italian, ca. 1240-ca.1302), The Flagellation of Christ (ca. 1280), The Frick Collection, New York
[1] Vasari, Giorgio (b Arezzo, 30 July 1511; d Florence, 27 June 1574). Italian painter, architect, and writer, active mainly in Florence and Rome. In his day he was a leading painter, architect, and artistic impresario, but his activities in these fields have been completely overshadowed by his role as the most important of all artistic biographers. His great book, generally referred to as Lives of the Artists, has earned him the title of the father of art history; it is not only the fundamental source of information on Italian Renaissance art, but also a key document in shaping attitudes about the period for centuries afterwards. (The book was first published in Florence in 1550 as Le vite de' più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani—The Lives of the Most Eminent Italian Architects, Painters, and Sculptors; in 1568 there was a second, much enlarged edition, in which the title is slightly changed, the painters being mentioned first. In addition to biographies, the book contains a lengthy introduction dealing with artists' materials and techniques.)

Vasari wrote from a particular aesthetic viewpoint, and his book is not only a collection of biographical information but also a critical history of style. He believed that art is in the first instance imitation of nature and that progress in painting consists in the perfecting of the means of representation. He thought that such representational skills had been taken to high levels in classical antiquity, that art had then passed through a long period of decline in the Middle Ages, and that it had begun to revive in the 14th century in Tuscany (he was heavily biased in favour of his own region). The main theme of the Lives was to set forth this revival—its initiation by Cimabue and Giotto, its steady advance at the hands of such artists as Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Masaccio, and its culmination with Leonardo, Raphael, and above all Michelangelo, whom Vasari idolized and whose biography was the only one of a living artist to appear in the first edition of his book (the second edition adds accounts of several artists then living, including Vasari's autobiography). The idea of artistic ‘progress’ that he promoted subsequently coloured most writing on the period.

Given the wide scope and vast size of the book (the second edition has roughly the same wordage as the Bible), it is not surprising that it contains many errors and contentious points (see, for example, Andrea del Castagno and Andrea del Sarto). However, by the standards of the time Vasari was a diligent researcher and he gathered together an enormous amount of invaluable information, which he presented in a lively style, full of memorable anecdotes. Moreover, his qualitative judgements have generally stood the test of time well: the artists and works he most admired are by and large still the ones we most admire today. His book became the model for artistic biographers in other countries, such as van Mander in the Netherlands, Sandrart in Germany, and Palomino in Spain.

As a painter, Vasari was one of the most prolific decorators of his period, but he is not now highly regarded, his work representing the most in-bred and affected kind of Mannerism. His best-known achievement in this field is probably the decoration (1546) of the grand salon in the Palazzo della Cancelleria, Rome, with scenes celebrating the life of Pope Paul III, commissioned by his grandson Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. Pressed for quick results by the cardinal, Vasari enlisted a team of assistants and finished the work within 100 days, earning the room its nickname of the Sala dei Cento Giorni. When Michelangelo was told of the remarkable speed with which the work had been accomplished, he is said to have made the withering response ‘E si vede’ (So it appears). As an architect Vasari has a higher reputation; his most important building is the Uffizi in Florence, and he designed and decorated his own house in Arezzo, now a museum dedicated to him. Vasari was the first important collector of drawings, using them partly as research material for his biographies, for the insight they gave into the creative process, and he also played the leading role in establishing Florence's Accademia del Disegno.
[IAN CHILVERS. "Vasari, Giorgio." The Oxford Dictionary of Art. 2004. (June 13, 2011).]


Giorgio Vasari | Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects

Art in Tuscany | Art in Tuscany | Giorgio Vasari | Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects
Volume I | Cimabue to Agnolo Gaddi
Volume II | Berna to Michelozzo Michelozzi
Volume III | Filarete And Simone To Mantegna
Volume IV | Filippino Lippi To Domenico Puligo
Volume V | Andrea Da Fiesole to Lorenzo Lotto
Volume VI | Fra Giocondo To Niccolò Soggi
Volume VII | Tribolo to Il Sodoma
Volume VIII | Bastiano to Taddeo Zucchero
Volume IX | Michelagnolo To The Flemings
Volume X | Bronzino to Vasari | General Index

Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects, Giorgio Vasari | download pdf

Holiday accomodation in Tuscany | Podere Santa Pia | Artist and writer's residency


Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, garden view, April
View from Podere Santa Pia
on the coast and Corsica

Villa Celsa near Florence
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
in Florence
Choistro dello Scalzo, Florence
The façade and the bell tower of
San Marco in Florence
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
in Florence
Florence, Duomo