Patricia L. Reilly

Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities

20052006 Forum on Word and Image

Patricia L. Reilly

Swarthmore, Assistant Professor, Art History

Giorgio Vasari and the Campaign to Create the Florentine Visual Vernacular

Prof. Reilly is working on a book project entitled "Giorgio Vasari and the Campaign to Create the Florentine Visual Vernacular." She explores the visual and textual arguments made by the Renaissance writer and painter Giorgio Vasari in both Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Architects, Painters and Sculptures of 1550 and in his revision some 15 years later. 

Beginning with an overview of the intensely competitive court culture in which these artists work, Prof. Reilly argues that Vasari sought to realize his agenda of promoting Raphaelesque language by modeling his revised accounts on the lives and styles of Michelangelo and Raphael on those Dante and Petrarch. Dante and Petrarch were themselves the subjects of a raging controversy in the literary Accademia Fiorentina over which the literary style of poets served as the best paradigm for the written and spoken Tuscan vernacular. In the revised Lives, Dr. Reilly argues, Vasari opposed a Petrarchan Raphael to a Dantean Michelangelo and promoted the former as a paradigm for what she terms the "Tuscan visual vernacular." The controversy this sparked, and the written and visual arguments it produced, provides insight into the momentous importance the establishment of style in image and text had for a group of talented, competitive and theory-driven artists working in the court culture of mid-Cinquecento Italy.