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Giorgio Vasari was the Boswell of the 16th century art world. He was also its Sammy Glick. As a painter and architect he outhustled many of his betters for commissions in the courts of Florence, Rome, Naples and Bologna. Vasari had an inflated opinion of his talent as a painter, so it is something of an irony that he is remembered chiefly for his Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, an informal, even gossipy collection of biographical studies of the...

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