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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
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