Giorgio Vasari’s portraits of fourteenth-century Florentine painters Giotto and Buffalmacco in his Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects are indebted to two medieval novella collections: Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron and Franco Sacchetti’s Trecentonovelle. Boccaccio and Sacchetti provide more than just anecdotal bric-a-brac to Vasari and his fellow Renaissance art theorists. Both authors identify the painter’s labor as a central problem for aesthetic theories of painting. In contrast to Boccaccio, Sacchetti sees no contradiction between the daily realities that define the painter’s vocation and the potentially sublime qualities of their finished works. Scholarship has yet to acknowledge the sophistication and precocity with which the medieval novella tackled thorny philosophical questions about the materiality of painting.

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