In this book, Douglas Biow analyzes Vasari's Lives of the Artists - often considered the first great work of art history in the modern era - from a new perspective. He focuses on key words and shows how they address a variety of compelling, culturally determined ideas circulating in late Renaissance Italy. The keywords chosen for this study investigate five seemingly divergent, yet still interconnected, ideas. What does it mean to have a 'profession', professione, and possess 'genius', ingegno, in the visual arts? How is 'speed', prestezza, valued among visual artists of the period and how is 'time', tempo, conceptualized in Vasari's narrative and descriptions of visual art? Finally, how is the 'night', notte, conceived and visually represented as a distinct span of time in The Lives? Written in an engaging manner for specialists and non-specialists alike, Vasari's Words places the Lives - a truly foundational and innovative book of Western culture - within the context of the modern discipline of intellectual history.
Douglas Biow is the Superior Oil Company-Linward Shivers Centennial Professor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Director of the Center for European Studies at The University of Texas, Austin. He is the author of five prior books, including most recently The Culture of Cleanliness in Renaissance Italy (2006), In Your Face: Professional Improprieties and the Art of Being Conspicuous (2010), and On the Importance of Being an Individual: Men, Their Professions, and Their Beards (2015). He has been the recipient of a number of scholarly awards, including NEH, Delmas, and Guggenheim Fellowship.