Artibus et Historiae no. 64 (XXXII)

2011, ISSN 0391-9064

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KAREN HOPE GOODCHILD - “A Hand More Practiced and Sure”: The History of Landscape Painting in Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists

This essay analyzes the text of Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists across both editions in order to reconstruct the history of landscape painting in Italy as Vasari tells it. First, the advancements made in landscape within each of Vasari’s three eras of art are elucidated, with attention being paid both to landscape painters Vasari particularly praises, and to the innovations in media, technique and content that he notes in each period. Second, after Vasari’s chronology for the invention, development, and final perfection of landscape painting is set forth, the study examines the striking changes made between the 1550 and 1568 editions of the Lives, suggesting these changes show two things: Vasari’s increasing awareness of Northern European contributions to landscape painting, and his desire to establish Italian painters as preeminent in the invention and continued practice of the genre. Taken together, the history of landscape painting Vasari chooses to tell, and the modifications he makes to this history, show the importance of landscape painting in the Lives as a marker both of a painter’s dexterity and of his ingenuity.

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