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GIORGIO VASARI TO THE CRAFTSMEN IN DESIGN TO THE CRAFTSMEN IN DESIGN


 Vasari's Lives of the Artists

Excellent and Well-beloved Brother-Craftsmen—

So great has always been the delight, to say nothing of the profit and honour, that I have derived from practising my hand to the best of my ability in this most noble art of ours, that I have not only had a burning desire to exalt and to celebrate her, and to honour her in every manner open to me, but have also been full of affection for all those who have taken the same pleasure in her and have succeeded in practising her more happily than I, perhaps, have been able to do. And from this my good will, so full of the most sincere affection, it appears to me that I have gathered hitherto fruits that are an ample reward, for I have been always loved and honoured by you all, and we have been united in the most perfect intimacy or brotherhood, I know not which to call it; mutually showing our works to one another, I to you and you to me, and helping one another with counsel and assistance whenever the occasion has presented itself. Wherefore I have always felt myself deeply bound by this loving fellowship, and much more by your excellent abilities, and no less, also, by this my inclination, by nature, and by a most powerful attraction, to assist and serve you in every way and every matter wherein I have considered myself able to bring you pleasure or advantage. To this end I published in the year 1550 the Lives of our best and most famous Craftsmen, moved by a cause that has been mentioned in another place, and also, to tell the truth, by a generous indignation that so much talent should have been for so long a time, and should still remain, buried in oblivion. And this my labour appears not to have [Pg 230] been in any way unwelcome; on the contrary, so acceptable, that, not to mention what has been said and written to me from many quarters, out of the vast number that were printed at that time, there is not one single volume to be found at the booksellers.

Thus, therefore, receiving every day requests from many friends, and understanding no less clearly the unexpressed desires of many others, once more, although in the midst of most important undertakings, I have applied myself to the same labour, with the intention not only of adding those masters who have passed to a better world between that time and the present, thus giving me the opportunity of writing their Lives in full, but also of supplying that which may have been wanting to the perfection of my first work. For since then I have had leisure to come to a better knowledge of many matters, and to re-examine others, not only by the favour of these my most illustrious Lords, whom I serve, the true refuge and protection of all the arts, but also through the facilities that they have given me to search the whole of Italy once again and to see and understand many things which had not before come under my notice. I have been able, therefore, not merely to make corrections, but also to add so many things, that many of the Lives may be said to have been almost written anew; while some, indeed, even of the old masters, which were not there before, have been added. Nor, the better to revive the memory of those whom I so greatly honour, have I grudged the great labour, pains and expense of seeking out their portraits, which I have placed at the head of their Lives. And for the greater satisfaction of many friends not of our profession, who are yet devoted lovers of art, I have included in a compendium the greater part of the works of those who are still living and are worthy to be for ever renowned on account of their abilities; for that scruple which formerly restrained me can have no place here in the opinion of any thoughtful reader, since I deal with no works save those that are excellent and worthy of praise. And this may perchance serve as a spur to make every craftsman continue to labour worthily and advance unceasingly from good to better; insomuch that he who shall write the rest of this history, may be able to give it more grandeur and majesty, having occasion to describe those rarer and [Pg 231] more perfect works which, begun from time to time through the desire of immortality, and finished by the loving care of intellects so divine, the world in days to come shall see issuing from your hands. And the young men who follow with their studies, incited by hope of glory (if hope of gain has not enough force), may perchance be inspired by such an example to attain to excellence.

And to the end that this work may prove to be in every way complete, and that there may be no need to seek anything outside its pages, I have added a great part of the works of the most celebrated craftsmen of antiquity, both Greek and of other nations, whose memory has been preserved down to our own day by Pliny and other writers, without whose pens they would have been buried, like many others, in eternal oblivion. And this consideration, also, may perchance increase the willingness of men in general to labour valiantly, and may impel and inspire us all, as we behold the nobility and greatness of our art, and how she has always been prized and rewarded by all nations, and particularly by the most lofty minds and the most powerful Princes, to leave the world adorned by works infinite in number and unsurpassed in excellence; whence, rendered beautiful by us, it may give to us that rank which it has given to those ever marvellous and celebrated spirits.

Accept, then, with a friendly mind, these my labours, which, whatever they may be, have been lovingly carried to conclusion by me for the glory of art and for the honour of her craftsmen, and take them as a sure token and pledge of my heart, which is desirous of nothing more ardently than of your greatness and glory, in which, seeing that I also have been received by you into your company (for which I render my thanks to you, and congratulate myself not a little on my own account), I shall always consider myself in a certain sense a participator.



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