This is another in my Vasari series which I hope to include in a book. Giorgio Vasari published the 2nd edition of his famous book Lives of the Artists in 1568 in which he comments on 160 artists and architects. I can highly recommend the edited version published in Penguin Classics Translation by George Bull.
I knew you’d like my triads how I posed
three characters, made the cave triangular
and lanced the whole composition
into jousting triangles. I knew you’d like
my hint of supernatural powers broiling
in the cloud top right corner of the canvas.
Not forgetting the stylised dragon of course.
I knew you’d highlight my fallen soldier
deftly foreshortened; my speciality you wrote
and the way the lances disappear at a vanishing point.
* * *
But why must you spread rumours with your gossipy pen!
I didn’t stay up all hours unravelling the mysteries
of perspective and foreshortening; I didn’t tell my wife,
“What a sweet thing perspective is.”
And why did you go on and on about that abbot
feeding me cheese as if I was a mouse. Yes, I know
I wrote in my diary, “If he went on any more I wouldn’t
be Paulo Uccello, I’d be pure cheese.” But I don’t want
to be remembered as the ‘cheese artist,’ it was a joke!
* * *
Although I honour your veneration of artistic perfection
I find it difficult to forgive your epitaph – that throwaway
line after writing that Paulo painted animals, the first man
and woman in a beautiful accomplished style, that he depicted
ploughed fields, furrows, meadows, trees and other details
of country life, “in that dry and hard style of his.” In short
Giorgio, you’ve got things out of perspective: I’m shocked
you think I squandered my time and energy in obsessive
compulsive experiments with multiple vanishing points.
I’m disappointed you depict me in two dimensions living
in disgruntled old age in a hovel at the end. It’s just
not proportionate – not measured, not a balanced picture.