Artibus et Historiae no. 64 (XXXII)

2011, ISSN 0391-9064

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SARAH BLAKE McHAM - Pliny’s Influence on Vasari’s First Edition of the Lives

As Vasari told the story, he was encouraged to write the Lives by Paolo Giovio (1483/6–1552), a major literary figure who specialized in biographical history. Giovio, a Pliny enthusiast, collaborated with Vasari on every phase of preparing the first edition of the Lives and influenced Vasari to adopt the model of Pliny’s Natural History. Although Vasari denigrated the Roman precedent, Pliny’s biographies of artists were the primary model for his enterprise. Vasari organized the proems of the Lives in a variety of ways that depend on the Natural History. He took up a number of Pliny’s theoretical positions. In addition, Vasari adopted Pliny’s schematic, but comprehensive, history of art told through the lens of collected biographies of artists who were generally organized by school and by a master-pupil sequence and structured to reveal the technical development of Italian art.

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