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Painter and architect

Among the illustrious figures born in Arezzo over the centuries, Giorgio Vasari has a place of absolute prominence. An appreciated and prolific painter of Mannerism, a brilliant architect, a fine collector of drawings, a biographer and the first art historian of modern age: there are many reasons why Vasari can be considered in his own right a leading figure of late Renaissance and one of the most influential intellectuals of his time.

Giorgio Vasari

Life and works of one of the most prominent figures of Renaissance

 

An emblematic personality of the 16th century, Vasari embodied the prototype of the versatile, cultured and courtier artist at the service of the mighty. Lords, popes and other great figures of the 16th century made use of his qualities in painting, architecture and literature to enhance their prestige. With the “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects” he wrote the first organised essay in art history.

Vasari in his homeland

Despite the prestigious commissions he received throughout Italy, Giorgio Vasari always remained viscerally attached to his hometown. An intense itinerary in the land of Arezzo takes the visitor through the buildings he designed and his works still present inside the churches and the museums of Arezzo. At the same time, the itinerary suggests evocative routes in Casentino e Val di Chiana, discovering Vasari’s paintings and architecture.

The connection with Arezzo between art and love

Vasari House and the Museum of Medieval and Modern Art are two national museums that keep some of Giorgio Vasari’s finest works in Arezzo. The first of these museums is one of the most well-preserved artist’s residences in Italy, also home to the Vasarian Archive, where Vasari lived with his wife Niccolosa from 1550. The second museum is inside one of the most beautiful palaces in Arezzo and has works ranging from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.

The artist’s residence celebrates the thought and art of Giorgio Vasari. Inside, there are rooms richly frescoed by the painter and his collaborators and a valuable picture gallery of Mannerism works. The museum is also home to the Vasarian Archive which, among autograph writings, notes, mementos and correspondence with illustrious figures of the period, is a valuable source for studying art history and culture from the 16th century.

The museum is inside the Bruni Ciocchi Palace, one of the most beautiful from the Renaissance in Arezzo. The museum has paintings, majolicas, sculptures and objects ranging from the 10th to the 19th century, mainly found in the surroundings of Arezzo. Of particular interest is the mediaeval tombstone section and the works of Margarito, Spinello Aretino, Andrea della Robbia, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Luca Signorelli e Giorgio Vasari.

A route between painting and architecture

Taking a walk through the streets of Arezzo, discovering the works left behind by Giorgio Vasari over his entire career allows you to admire from the outside or enter in some of the most beautiful art treasures of the city. Churches, museums and palaces form an outstanding Vasarian route that traces the artistic and social rise of the son of a fabrics merchant, who became one of the most influential figures of his era.

From the Uffizi to Piazza Grande

To Giorgio Vasari his hometown has dedicated the main square in the historical centre, commonly known as Piazza Grande. Among the historical buildings that shape it is the Palazzo delle Logge, designed by him but completed a few years after his death. Piazza Grande is also the final point of the Vasarian Aqueduct, an admirable work of hydraulic engineering for which Vasari made his first feasibility studies.

On the 19th of July 1572 Giorgio Vasari was commissioned by the Fraternita dei Laici to design the Palazzo delle Logge. Arezzo’s most magnificent late Renaissance building changed the urban layout of Piazza Grande and reduced its size. In one portion of the palace the architect designed a theatre, while in the elegant cross-vaulted loggia some stores found their place for stores.

A fascinating work of hydraulic engineering, the Vasarian Aqueduct has for more than four centuries characterised the northern part of the town with its 52 monumental arches that remind of the Roman Aqueducts. The path of water begins on the slopes of the Alpe di Poti and ends in the heart of the city. A room dedicated to the history of the work has been set up in the Fraternita Palace.

Renaissance master and biographer

In his long career Giorgio Vasari wes celebrated as a painter and architect, but his name has since been passed down in later centuries mainly in reference to “The lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects”, an often unique source of biographical news and data about many artists who have been saved from oblivion thanks to this book. With his work Vasari still influences our view of art history today.

Considered the first modern and organised essay on art history, Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives” collects a series of biographies of artists who lived between the 13th and 16th century, from Cimabue to Michelangelo Buonarroti. The book is an irreplaceable tool for learning about the authors mentioned, their still-existing and their lost works. The book had two editions: the first in 1550, the second revised and extended in 1568.

His works in the land of Arezzo

Most of Giorgio Vasari’s works still present in the Arezzo area are concentrated in town, but it is also possible to find important works in Valdichiana, where tourists can find a dedicated route that connects Castiglion Fiorentino, Cortona, Foiano della Chiana, Lucignano and Monte San Savino. In Casentino a main Vasarian destination is the Monastery of Camaldoli in the heart of the Casentino Forests.

Vasari in the places of the soul

After the murder of his protector and friend Alessandro de’ Medici, Vasari left Florence and took shelter for some time at Camaldoli, in the heart of the Casentino Forests, with the idea of overcoming a troubled period and finding inner peace. For the church of the monastery he worked, between 1537 and 1540, on a series of panels that represent a watershed in the artist’s career, by then ready to rise.

From Arezzo to the Medici’s court

From his studies with Ippolito and Alessandro de’ Medici to the court of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the life of Giorgio Vasari was inextricably linked to the powerful Florentine family for long. The Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi palace and the Corridoio Vasariano, the sheltered walkway between Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti, are only the most remarkable traces among the many left behind in Florence by the painter, architect and art historian.

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