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Woodcut portrait of Michelangelo from the offprint of Vasari's Life of Michelangelo

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Giorgio Vasari & Court Culture in Late Renaissance Italy

Vasari and Michelangelo

SEPTEMBER 15, 2012 – JANUARY 27, 2013 / GALLERY 318

Although the poet Ludovico Ariosto was the first to call Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), the famous Florentine sculptor, painter, architect, and poet, “divine” in hisOrlando Furioso of 1516, it was Vasari who published Michelangelo’s first biography—the first of any living artist—in the 1550 edition of the Lives of the Artists. When Vasari sent Michelangelo a copy of the Lives, the older artist responded by composing a poem that praised Vasari’s text for giving new life to dead artists and allowing them to live eternally.

The second edition of the Lives postdates Michelangelo’s death by four years. In it, Vasari expanded his previous vita of Michelangelo to include works produced after 1550. He also misleadingly claimed to have studied under Michelangelo and included a description of the decorative scheme that he, Vincenzo Borghini, and members of Florence’s Academy of Design devised for Michelangelo’s innovative funeral. Vasari’sLife of Michelangelo did a great deal to codify for posterity the larger-than-life artist’s career and the cult of his personality. Portraits of Michelangelo, engravings made after his works, and a separate printing, or offprint, of Michelangelo’s vita further contributed to the development and dissemination of his reputation and artistic legacy.