Giorgio Vasari, author of the famed sixteenth-century compendium Lives, was the most influential proponent of the Medici art myth: the doctrine that painting, sculpture, and architecture reached unique perfection in Florence through inspired Medici patronage. By the mid-seventeenth century, however, Vasari's claims were drawing vehement criticism throughout Italy. Seeking to reaffirm the cultural prestige of his family and his nation, Cardinal Prince Leopoldo de' Medici (1617-1675) sponsored a new Florentine edition of artists' lives in the Vasarian tradition.
In After Vasari, Edward Goldberg focuses on Filippo Baldinucci (1625-1696), the chief curator of Leopoldo's remarkable collections. For many years after his patron's death, Baldinucci struggled to realize this great art historiographic project but was continually frustrated by a lack of financial support and by the bitter enmity of other writers on art. He also suffered from chronic depression and from destructive religious obsessions. In tracing the pattern of Baldinucci's successes and failures, Goldberg sheds much new light on the values and customs of late Medici Florence, and on the human dimension of contemporary art historical controversies.