Available as two separate volumes or as a bo xed set, this 16th century work is a distinctive blend of bi ography and criticism which effectively founded the study of art history and remains one of its greatest monuments '
However, for the modern reader, this work can prove a chore. Gaston de Vere appears to have provided a very precise translation of the 2nd edition (1568) of this work and whilst this authenticity in translation is to be encouraged, it does not assist with what can otherwise be a very dry and difficult read. Vasari has also been severally criticised for embellishing upon and evening disregarding the truth, whilst writing the 'Lives'.
These criticisms are in part justified. However, they must also be made in context. One must remember that Vasari was himself hampered in this work, being plagued by the uncertainty and deficiency of the records of the individuals and works involved, as is perhaps best illustrated by his desire to create a second edition of his work, thirteen years after the first edition. In addition, any dryness might be forgiven when considering the subject matter, the style of writing popular of that period and given Vasari's attempts to record and often describe those known works by his subjects. Incidentally, I found the 'Lives' much more interesting and rewarding when I had the opportunity to view many of these works myself in Florence and to visit Vasari's house in Arezzo.
I would concede that the 'Lives' is certainly not for the light-hearted. However, given Vasari's influential and active position within the Medici court during what is arguably the high point of the Renaissance, the 'Lives' reflects a contemporary record, and Vasari's own view, of the origins and development of Florentine and Italian art.