The Lives of the Painters, Sculptors & Architects: Volume 3

J. M. Dent
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Publisher
J. M. Dent
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Published on
Dec 31, 1900
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Pages
322
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Language
English
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Giorgio Vasari (1511–1571) is well known for his celebrated work on the lives of the Renaissance artists. But not many people know that Vasari was a painter and architect as well as a biographer, and that he wrote one of the most valuable treatises on the technical methods of the painters, architects, and sculptors of his time. This is the first and only English translation of this important technical material (originally published in 1550 as an introduction to Vasari's Lives of the Artists).
Vasari, as a practical craftsman, brings to his work as unusual understanding of the processes and materials he writes about, and conveys this knowledge to the reader in a style of the pleasantest and most readable kind. In the section on architecture, he describes the methods used in constructing rustic fountains and grottos; how Michelangelo developed new uses for architectural materials; the architectural uses of enriched plaster; the Renaissance view of Ionic, Doric, Gothic, and other types of architecture; and many similar topics.
In the selection on sculpture, the reader will learn about the making of the model, completion of the statue, reliefs, bronze casting, modelled plaster work, sculpture in wood, and other processes. The final section, on painting, discusses aesthetics, perspective, foreshortening, how colors were blended, fresco painting, painting in tempera, oil painting, and much more.
Scholars and historians of art have long used this book as the most detailed and valuable sourcebook of its time. But its full, readable discussions, combined with the sense of actuality and historical presence it contains, make it also perhaps the best possible description of the Renaissance artists in the heyday of their achievement.
In the process of creating the massive work that eventually became Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, painter and scholar Giorgio Vasari (1511­–1574) spent much of the mid-sixteenth century traveling throughout Italy, meeting Renaissance artists and writing about their lives and works.

From this imposing source, Thomas A. Pallen has created a compendium of theatrical references augmented by related modern Italian scholarship. Vasari's Lives—daunting because of its sheer magnitude—has remained relatively obscure to English-speaking theatre historians. To introduce the numerous scenographic references of this great work to the English-speaking audience, Pallen provides new translations of all relevant passages, as well as a table of cross-references to the principal editions of Vasari in both English and Italian. And because Vasari often omitted important information, Pallen annotates the text, providing important names, places, and historical background.

Essentially, Pallen divides Vasari's work into four categories: triumphs and pageantry, ingegni for mystery plays and festivals, theatrical scenery, and miscellanea and lacunae. Although triumphs and pageantry were not directly theatrical, they were executed by many of the same artists who worked on theatrical productions and either used or introduced many Renaissance Italian theatrical techniques. The works described here range from tableaux vivants and other forms of street decoration to fireworks displays.

While Vasari did not personally know the work of either Filippo Brunelleschi or Francesco d'Angelo (called Cecca), he discusses their inventions for staging mystery plays and street festivals; indeed, Pallen shows how the work of these two artists paved the way for all later Renaissance scenography.

Pallen then deals with Vasari's references to and descriptions of the theatrical scenery and lighting effects of his time and the artists who created them. In accordance with the schema developed by Elena Povoledo, Pallen leads the reader through the evolution of scenographic thought and practice from the elementary work of Girolamo Genga to the advanced settings created by Vasari himself.

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