The fame and influence of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) were as immediate as they were unprecedented. It is not surprising, therefore, that he was the only living artist Giorgio Vasari included in the first edition of Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, published in 1550. Revised and expanded in 1568, Vasari’s monumental work comprises more than two hundred biographies; for centuries it has been recognized as a seminal text in art history and one of the most important sources on the Italian Renaissance.
Vasari’s biography of Michelangelo, the longest in his Lives, presents Michelangelo’s oeuvre as the culminating achievement of Renaissance painting, sculpture, and architecture. He tells the grand story of the artist’s expansive career, profiling his working habits; describing the creation of countless masterpieces, from the David to the Sistine Chapel ceiling; and illuminating his relationships with popes and other illustrious patrons. A lifelong friend, Vasari also quotes generously from the correspondence between the two men; the narrative is further enhanced by an abundance of colorful anecdotes. The volume’s forty-two illustrations convey the range and richness of Michelangelo’s art.
An introduction by the scholar David Hemsoll traces the textual development of Vasari’s Lives and situates his biography of Michelangelo in the broader context of Renaissance art history.