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Vasari was himself a painter, but he is really remembered for these biographies which begin with Cimabue and Giotto in the late thirteenth century and trace the developments in Italian art down to the golden epoch of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Titian. Included are Vasari's reflections on the state of contemporary Florentine art - its philosopohy and its aims - which lend considerable historical and critical value to a work which has been tremendously popular since its first edition in 1550.
In his Lives of the Artists of the Italian Renaissance, Vasari demonstrated a literary talent that outshone even his outstanding abilities as a painter and architect. Through character sketches and anecdotes he depicts Piero di Cosimo shut away in his derelict house, living only to paint; Giulio Romano's startling painting of Jove striking down the giants; and his friend Francesco Salviati, whose biography also tells us much about Vasari's own early career. Vasari's original and soaring vision plus his acute aesthetic judgements have made him one of the most influential art historians of all time.