Giorgio Vasari & Court Culture in Late Renaissance Italy
Restoring Vasari’s Roman and Florentine Court Culture
A native of the city of Arezzo in the central Italian region of Tuscany, Vasari executed religious and secular paintings for churches, palaces, and civic buildings in cities located throughout the Italian peninsula. He spent a majority of his career, however, in Florence and Rome. In those early modern cultural capitals he honed his skills as an artist and studied the works of his predecessors—especially those of Raphael and Michelangelo. He also enjoyed and profited from the patronage of various members of the Medici family, several popes, and illustrious members of the papal and Florentine courts. Vasari held in particular esteem artists like himself whose careers had thrived in both Florence and Rome. The Spencer Museum’s Christ Carrying the Cross and Livo’sConversion of St. Paul testify to that success. Not only were they made for Vincenzo Borghini, an intellectual and author with close ties to Vasari and the Medici court, but they also replicate larger paintings associated with the papal court that Vasari painted in the early 1550s in Rome. Furthermore, it was in Rome in 1540s that, according to Vasari, dinnertime conversation at the home of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese with the cardinal and his erudite guests planted the seed of what would become the Lives of the Artists. But it was in Florence that both editions of the Lives, which Vasari dedicated to Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519–74), were published.