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In Focus: Giorgio Vasari
To mark the anniversary of the second edition of the Vite, 1568
25 May until 3 June 2018

Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in the Pinakothek der Moderne

450 years ago, Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) published the second edition of his Vite, a collection of biographies of famous artists from the 13th to the mid-16th century. Compared with the first edition from 1550, the second edition is revised and significantly expanded, and established Vasari’s reputation as an art historian and as the "father of art history".
In his Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori scultori ed architettori (Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects), as the work is titled in Italian, Vasari not only offers a series of biographical narratives but also attempts to organize and systematize them. In the eyes of the Renaissance man Vasari, the art of Antiquity had attained a high degree of perfection, but had then fallen from grace, before experiencing a rebirth (rinascita) beginning with Cimabue and continuing into his own lifetime. The biographies reflect the progress that Vasari saw in this period in the artistic achievements of the Masters. Vasari believed that this development reached its initial peak in the work of Michelangelo, whom he revered, where for the first time it surpassed the works of Antiquity. With the success of the Vite, the epochal scheme of Antiquity, the "Gothic", and the Renaissance became established. Vasari brought the origin of painting, sculpture, and architecture together under the term disegno, for which the English term "drawing" provides an insufficient translation. For Vasari, disegno represents the moment of an artwork’s mental conception, a creative and intellectual act which is of a higher order than the flawless technical execution of a work.
This exhibition takes the anniversary of the Vite’s publication as an opportunity to present, alongside a copy of the second edition, Vasari’s own exquisite skills as a draughtsman. Works by Pollaiuolo and El Greco from the Libro de’ disegni, Vasari’s famous collection of drawings, will also be featured. In addition, through the presentation of a major double-sided sheet by the young Master, Michelangelo’s artistic orientation as set out by Vasari in the Vite will be illustrated in a truly striking fashion.


fig.: Antonio del Pollaiuolo (1431/32–1498). Study for an equestrian monument of Francesco Sforza, ca. 1480. Black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash, background in dark and reddish-brown ink  208 x 220 mm  Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München © Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München.


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