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Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, architect, and art historian. Today, he is most famous for his Lives of the Most ExcellentPainters, Sculptors, and Architects, considered the foundation of art history.
Giorgio Vasari was born in July 1511, in Arezzo, in the Italian region of Tuscany, near Florence. His cousin, the painter Luca Signorelli, recommended Vasari to the stained glass painter Guglielmo de Marsiglia, who promptly took Vasari as a pupil at a rather young age.
Cardinal Silvio Passerini sent Vasari to Florence when the artist was 16 years old, where a humanist education was encouraged. He would meet and join the circle of Andrea del Sarto and his pupils Jacopo Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. In Florence, he also met and became friends with Michelangelo, who also became an essential influence on Vasari’s style.
In 1529, he visited Rome to study the artworks by Raphael and other High Renaissance Roman artists. In 1547, he completed a series of frescoes called Sala dei Cento Giorni at a hall in Palazzo della Cancellaria.
Vasari consistently received commissions from the distinguished and highly dominant Medici family both in Rome and Florence. He also worked in cities such as Arezzo and Naples, on the Vasari Sacristy, for example. Much of Vasari’s paintings have survived until today, the ceiling and walls in the Sala di Cosimo I in the Palazzo Vecchio, which was executed by him and his assistants.
Giorgio Vasari was a very prolific person in many areas, apart from being a painter, he was also a highly accomplished architect and often regarded as the first art historian, producing biographies of several artists. Although some may sometimes contain some inaccuracies, they are still reliable and an abundant source of information. Today, Vasari might be best known for the latter.
In Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Vasari wrote several biographies of artists, both older and contemporaries of his, playing a vital role paving the way of how we understand art history today. He created the genre of artistic biographies in an encyclopedic manner. However, although the undeniable importance of his work, today scholars may suggest we take them with a grain of salt, for he was undeniably biased towards Florentine art, often ignoring Venetian art, as well as from other European locales. Vasari would attribute most of the art development during the Renaissance to the Florentines.