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Publisher's Summary

Georgio Vasari's original vision of the arts was to see the artist as divinely inspired. He describes the lives of 45 artists, including Giotto, Brunelleschi, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian, with striking immediacy conveyed through character sketches, anecdotes, and detailed recording of conversations.

Although Vasari was at times inaccurate, prompting some dry remarks from Michelangelo, Michelangelo did praise the work for endowing artists with immortality.

Vasari's shrewd judgments and his precise pinpointing of the emotions aroused by individual works of art bear out his predictions that he would have a worldwide influence on the history of art.

Volume One includes the lives of Brunelleschi, Botticelli, da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, and 14 more.

Translated by George Bull.

©1965 George Bull; (P)1995 Blackstone Audio

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  • Overall

Interest to the artist, as well as the historian

This is an "Unabridged" reading of an "Abridged" translation of the original work. The fact that the reading is not the "complete" work of Giorgio Vasari, is not necessarily a negative observation, since the abridged version is over 18 hrs long. The original book was published several times during Vasari's life, as he added more artists or edited previous content. The English translator, George Bull, has selected some of the most historically "important" artists to include in his translation. His translation seems to capture the humor and attitude of Vasari. Compared to a number of public domain translations I sampled, it was definitely a more interesting read.This book is available in print, but I would never have tried to read this book cover to cover, due to its length (plus all the Italian names and the quoted Latin). However, the reader made listening enjoyable as I commuted (many days) to work.

To some, this book is significant as the archetype for art history or commentary. However, the reader/listener benefits from Vasari's perspective as a fellow-artist and contemporary of a number of the artists he writes about. It is obvious that Vasari's "political agenda" is to increase the stature, appreciation, and respect for all artists -- and Vasari does become repetitive in his praises of the works of the best artists. However, the listener gains an appreciation of the unique circumstances that enabled art to flourish in the Renaissance, but also how artist had to rediscover the basics lost in Greek and Roman times. As Vasari comments on what is included or omitted from the works of other artists, he also teaches art foundations. He demonstrates how later artists benefited from those who came before them. Many of his opinions have stood over time (although some historians argue the details).

As with most Audible books, it would have been helpful to have bookmarks that aligned with chapters and artists.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 07-12-14

An encyclopedic “Garden of Delights”

I normally don't gravitate towards abridged books (sorry folks on Audible, but this IS abridged), but Vasari's 'The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects' is a book that needs to be: 1) read by art history experts in its entirety (2000+ pages), 2) picked through periodically, like an encyclopedic “Garden of Delights”, 3) read abridged, in a version that focuses on the Renaissance's best (Vasari was interested in distinguishing the better from the good and the best from the better). My time here is limited. I only have so much time for the good. In my brief life here I want to hang with the Gods not with the minor prophets. I want Michelangelo not Niccolò Soggi. Sorry Niccolò.

The Penguin Classics/George Bull translation, was a great audio version. It had all the Teenage Ninja Mutant Renaissance artists, but still provided plenty of architects, sculptures and painters that I was either completely uninformed about or lacked much knowledge. Vasari has a natural narrative momentum, even if he does sometimes lose his narrative genius when he's consumed with listing and describing all of an artists works. It is a fine balancing act, to try and describe the artists' life, work, and importance and make the essay complete, without making the piece a laundry list of oil and marble.

One final note. This is one of those books that seems destined to become an amazing hypertext book or app. There were times while reading it I wished I was reading a digital copy that would provide links to pictures, blue prints, smoothly rotating statues, etc. What I wanted was a through the looking-glass, artist's version of 'The Elements' app by Theodore Gray. I want a multiverse of art, history, maps and blueprints. I want to fall into a hypertext of Renaissance Florence and Rome. Audiobooks or paper just fail to do justice to this beautiful subject.

23 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony
  • Ardmore, PA, United States
  • 07-21-14

Not off to a good start

I have only begun listening - about the first two hours. But this is one of those recording where I ask myself - "How do these people get their jobs?" While the woman's voice is clear and eloquent, she has long, annoying pauses between each sentence. And each sentence she begins starts with an audible gulp as though she needs air. Do these people not learn the fundamentals of breath control and vocal delivery?
Her Italian ( She's English) is also stereotypical laughable British Italian. For her "putti"
( cherubs) is pronounced "putty."
The text is the saving grace.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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MODERN

The word modern depends on a writer’s place in history. To Giorgio Vasari, in the art world, modern begins with Cimabue and rises to a pinnacle of modern art with da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian.

“Lives of the Artists” credits modern art to Cimabue and Giotto with what is seen in nature as their inspiration. Vasari argues that Cimabue and Giotto break away from the symbolic form of Byzantine design to re-awaken the arts of architecture, sculpture, and painting. In “Lives of the Artists” Vasari chronicles the rise of 16th century “modern” art.

Vasari’s book is a fascinating examination of a great era of art by an artist that actually met Leonardo de Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Samara
  • Trenton, NJ, USA
  • 05-29-10

Can't get through the whole thing..

I was so disappointed in this one it has made me create my first review.. The narrator's pauses don't allow it to flow smoothly. Sometimes her nose makes noises. Her voice itself is nice. But I also don't like how there are many statements or quotes, some lengthy, that are not translated into English. I have yet to listen completely. As for the substance of the book, the issues listed above stop me from enjoying it.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Rachel
  • YAKIMA, WA, United States
  • 09-15-13

Classic read. not overly memorable

I read this to have read it. I did. And now I don't remember much. Granted, its been a while since I finished it, but the time of these artists is so far removed from our time that it takes concentration just to follow the history. I appreciated some of the commentary by the translator, but I had a hard time, in the audiobook, understanding which things were comments by Vasari and which were comments from the translator.

I wish this book were better. I would like to know more about the artists and the times in which they lived, but Vasari is writing at a different time and for a different audience, so I think that was where it lost me. Vasari had motives as an author and making me understand 15th century Italy wasn't one of them.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful