Monday, January 14, 2008

Vasari on the invention of Painting and Sculpture: God as the "first artist"

Vasari - Le Vite, 1568

" I AM aware that it is commonly held as a fact by most writers that sculpture, as well as painting, was naturally discovered originally by the people of Egypt, and also that there are others who attribute to the Chaldeans the first rough carvings of statues and the first reliefs. In like manner there are those who credit the Greeks with the invention of the brush and of colouring. But it is my opinion that design, which is the foundation of both arts, and the very soul which conceives and nourishes in itself every part of the intelligence, came into full existence at the time of the origin of all things, when the Most High, after creating the world and adorning the heavens with shining lights, descended through the limpid air to the solid earth, and by shaping man, disclosed the first form of sculpture and painting in the charming invention of things. Who will deny that from this man, as from a living example, the ideas of statues and sculpture, and the questions of pose and of outline, first took form; and from the first pictures, whatever they may have been, arose the first ideas of grace, unity, and the discordant concords made by the play of lights and shadows?"

Giorgio Vasari - Lives, Preface, 1550


For Vasari, God is the "first artist", and Man the "first" work of art, the highlight of creation, the original form from which the forms of painting and sculpture are derived. Art comes from Nature and, therefore, has its ultimate origin in the divine intelligence of the Creator.

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