Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) was a painter and architect. He was proud of his decoration of the Salone dei Cinquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence in which he painted, as he says in his own Life of Giorgio Vasari, 'almost everything that human thought and imagination can conceive'( Vasari, Le Vite, Testo VI.401). He was proud too of his design of the corridor which runs now from the Uffizi to the Pitti Palace across the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, and of his work in modernising the interiors of the churches of Santa Croce ('defaced' by Vasari according to Ruskin at Works, 23.305) and Santa Maria Novella in Florence ( Vasari, Le Vite, Testo VI.406).
Vasari's patron was Cosimo I de' Medici, Duke of Florence, and in his dedication to Cosimo of the first edition in 1550 of his most famous work, the Lives of the most eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, he said his aim was to show how 'in your state, nay, in your most blessed house the arts were born anew, and that through your ancestors the world has recovered these most beautiful arts, through which it has been ennobled and embellished'( Vasari, Le Vite, Testo I.2). A second, considerably expanded version was published in 1568. In both editions the overwhelming majority of those who were the 'most eminent' were connected with Florence, or at least Tuscany, and Rome.
For Vasari the process of rebirth began with Cimabue, called by him a Florentine nobleman. The second phase included Masaccio, Mino da Fiesole, Fra Angelico, Ghirlandaio, Verrocchio, Francia, and Perugino. The third and final phase of development began with Leonardo da Vinci, and the process reached its ultimate perfection in Michelangelo.
Vasari's version of art history, promoted by by his writing and by his foundation of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence in 1562, has remained influential ever since. A recent account of Vasari is to be found in Rubin, Giorgio Vasari - Art and History.
For Ruskin at Works, 23.219 in 1874 Vasari provides 'good meat' but meat for which you require 'strong gastric juices'. Ruskin in 1873 wrote:
It is the modern fashion to despise Vasari. He is indeed despicable, whether as historian or critic, --not least in his admiration of Michelangelo; nevertheless he records the traditions and opinions of his day; and these you must accurately know, before you can wisely correct. ( Works, 23.14)