Giorgio Vasari and Niccolò Machiavelli’s Medicean Appetite for Peace and Glory

Liana Cheney


This study examines the literary and visual connections between war and peace as a cultural diplomacy made by both Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) and Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574). The approach here is iconographical, focusing on three points. First, Machiavelli’s notions of condottiere, virtù, and war and peace in The Art of War (1521) are discussed in relation to Renaissance imagery, particularly in that produced as a result of Medicean patronage. Second, Vasari’s battle cycle in the Salone dei Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio (1555-60) in Florence is examined within the context of peace as revealed in Renaissance art and emblems. Finally, Vasari’s assimilation of Machiavelli’s notions of the art of war are interpreted in relation to the painting cycle, which visually embodies the paradox of war and peace discussed in Machiavelli’s writing.  


Art of War, Florence, Fortune, Mercury, Virtue

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