VASARI, Giorgio (1511-1574). Le vite e piu eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori Italiani. Florence: Lorenzo Torrentino, 1550.
3 parts in 2 volumes, 4 (197 x 127mm). Woodcut architectural title border incorporating a city view of Florence to parts one and three, large printer's device on final recto, woodcut historiated initials in several sizes. (Washed, minor restorations to first title, light stain in a few leaves, lower corner of final quire restored in facsimile.) Modern dark green morocco, gilt ornament at centre of covers, gilt spine, edges marbled and gilt, by Hardy-Mennil, green half morocco solander case (discreet restorations at extremities). Provenance: some contemporary annotations in vol. one.
FIRST EDITION OF 'THE FIRST MODERN HISTORY OF ART' (PMM). A painter and architect, Vasari wrote the Lives not merely for biographic utility but also artistic commentary. His critical treatment of the subject has earned him the title of 'father of art history'. Michelangelo is the only living artist included by Vasari, and he is celebrated as an artist who broke the chains of convention and in whom perfection has been attained. The Lives is 'a vital contribution to our understanding of the character and psychology of the great artists of the Renaissance, a term (Rinascita) which he was the first writer to use' (PMM).
Following a dedication to Cosimo I de'Medici, and introductions to architecture, painting and sculpture, the first edition of Vasari's Lives consists of biographies of 133 artists from Cimabue to Michelangelo. Vasari expanded his work in a second edition, published in 1568, but the first edition remains more informative about several artists, such as Giuliano da Sangallo and Raphael. Although only Vasari is named on the title-page, a variety of style and method suggests that the Lives may in fact be a collaborative work (cf. (Charles Hope, 'In Lorenzo's Garden', TLS, 24 June 1999, pp.65- 68 and 'Can you trust Vasari?', The New York Review, 5 October 1995, pp.10-13). Adams V-295; Cicognara 2390; PMM 88 (1568 ed.).