07/30/2012 09:24 am ET

Happy Birthday, Giorgio Vasari! (PHOTOS)

Today is the birthday of Italian painter, architect and renaissance historian Giorgio Vasari, who would turn 501 years old today. (Check out Google's tribute to the 500th anniversary of his birth last year.)

Vasari was born in Arezzo, Tuscany, where at an early age he became a student of stained glass painter Guglielmo da Marsiglia. At age 14, young Vasari was sent to Florence to continue his studies, traveling to Rome and Naples to observe the works of Roman High Renaissance artists. During this time, he became friends with contemporary Michelangelo and was frequently employed by members of the prominent Medici family, often painting frescos in churches and homes.

The mannerist style of Vasari's paintings received major attention during the 16th century; however, art admirers today remember Vasari's work more for his architectural creations. In Florence, Vasari designed the loggia of the Palazzo degli Uffizi as well as the Vasari Corrido that connects the Uffizi to the Palazzo Pitti. He also oversaw the renovation of several churches, including the Santa Maria Novella and the Santa Croce, built the octagonal dome of the Basilica of Our Lady of Humility in Pistoia, and helped to create Pope Julius III's villa. Through his work as an architect, Vasari was able to earn a significant income, allowing himself to build and design his own lavish home.


"Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects)"

Beyond his art making, Vasari's name has truly gained recognition as one of the first Italian art historians. He wrote a collection of biographies of Renaissance artists, titled "Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects)," providing academic and anecdotal accounts of painters like Giotto, Titian and Cimabue. His stories of the 13th and 14th century artists remain classic works of art history, and he is also considered to be one the first writers to use the term "Renaissance" in print.

For these reasons and many more, raise a glass to Vasari's birthday today and check out images of his work in the slideshow below.

Happy Birthday Giorgio Vasari!