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Lives Of The Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, And Architects: Translated From The Italian of Giorgio Vasari. With Notes And Illustrations, Chiefly Selected From Various Commentators. By Mrs. Jonathan Foster. - Vol. I. (- V.) -

Giorgio Vasari

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Uniform Title

[Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti., English., Foster., 1850.]


London:: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden. -, MDCCCL. (-M.DCCC.LII.)

Physical Description

5 vols.; 179 mm. (Octavo.)

General Note

Vol. I: viii, 511, [1] p., frontis. - Vol. II: iv, 508 p. - Vol. III: iv, 526 p. - Vol. IV: [4], 548 p. - Vol. V: [4], 580 p.


Vol. I: [Frontis., t.p.] - Preface - Table Of Contents - [Text]. - Vol. II: [T.p.] - Table Of Contents - [Text]; [colophon]. - Vol. III: [T.p.] - Table of Contents - [Text]; [colophon]. - Vol. IV: [T.p.] - Table Of Contents - [Text]; [colophon]. - Vol. V: [T.p.] - Table Of Contents - Erratum - [Text] - Description Of The Works Of Giorgio Vasari ... - [Index]; [colophon].

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece portrait of Volume I is signed by 'Menabuoni' (bottom left) and 'Hinchliff (bottom right).

The printers are named on the versos of the title pages and in the colophons: 'Printed By Harrison And Sons, London Gazette Office, St. Martin's Lane.'(Vol. I); 'Haddon, Brothers, And Co., Printers, Castle Street, Finsbury' (Vol. II); 'J. Haddon, Printer, Castle Street, Finsbury.' (Vols. III-V).


E. Grasman, All'ombra del Vasari: cinque saggi sulla storiografia dell'arte nell'Italia del Settecento [tr. from In de schaduw van Vasari] (2000); R. Williams, Art, theory and culture in sixteenth-century Italy (1997); P.L. Rubin, Giorgio Vasari: art and history (1995); G. Previtali, 'The periodization of Italian art history', in History of Italian art, vol. 2 (1994), p.1-118; D. Kamper, 'Litterärhistorie-romantische Utopie - kunstgeschichtliche Poesie: Drei Modelle der Renaissancerezeption, dargesellst anhand gedruckter und ungedruckter Vasari Übersezungen 1778-1832', in Romantik und Renaissance, ed. S. Vietta (1994); E. Grasman, 'La controversia fra il Vasari ed il Malvasia', in Il luogo ed il ruolo della città di Bologna tra Europa ... Atti del Colloquio C.I.H.A.: Bologna, 1990 (1992), p. 529-38.

Summary Note

Publication-dates are given on the title pages as 1850 (Vols. I, II), 1851 (Vol. III, IV) and 1852 (Vol. V).

Vasari's Vite were first published in 1550, and in a second, much expanded edition in 1568. It is the latter version which is translated here.

The work is not only a collection of biographies but also a critical history. It proved immensely influential - indeed Vasari's overview of the history of art was the prevailing one until well into the nineteenth century. Using the ancient comparison of the rise and fall of communities to the life of a human being, Vasari presents art as having declined from the age of Constantine I to that of the Goths, and as having been born again with Giotto, passed through a period of growth (stimulated by the discovery of ancient statues) and attained perfection with Michelangelo, who combines rule with 'licenzia' in such a way as to satisfy the judgment of the eye. Vasari's criterion of good art is the degree to which it imitates nature (again, an ancient idea). Although Michelangelo and Raphael provide a standard for judging earlier art, one must take account of the quality of the times and recognise that some (e.g. Donatello) have surpassed their age. It is disegno that underlies painting, sculpture and architecture; but anyone who would judge art should have some technical knowledge.

Influential though these ideas were, they did receive some criticism from thinkers such as Lomazzo, Malvasia and Gigli, and from Fischart (who suspected an anti-German bias).

The frontispiece of Volume I shows a portrait of Vasari by Menabuoni.


Purchased in 1868 (see 'Report on the Library', RA Annual Report for 1868, Appendix No. 6, p. 31).

Binding Note

19th-century calf, upper and lower covers decorated in blind in 16th-century manner; rebacked in 1989 by A. Wessely, brown morocco spine-labels lettered 'Lives Of Eminent Painters Etc. Vasari Vol. I(-V)'.


Artists, Italian - Painters, Italian - Sculptors, Italian - Architects, Italian - Art, Italian - Portraits - Italy - History - Renaissance
Biography - Art history - Art criticism - Reference books - Italy - 16th century
Reference books - Translations from Italian - Translations into English - Great Britain - 19th century