Vasari and Sprezzatura
Grace was not only limited to daily High Renaissance life, but extended to art as well. The crucial feature in Vasari's theory of art was the existence of this new quality, la grazia. Although the word had been interchangeable with beauty for a long time, Vasari gave it a new function. Unlike beauty, which, for him, depended on rules, grace was beyond description. He never fully defines it in Lives. It is usually contrasted with the serious and majestic; it describes the sweetness of Raphael much better than the grandeur of Leonardo. While Quattrocento artists like Piero della Francesca and Paolo Uccello were most concerned with exactness, Vasari valued the later High Renaissance artists for concealing the labor put into their work. "Any trace of laboriousness, any evidence that the artist has sweated over his work will destroy the grace of a painting." In one way, Vasari approved of careful study. In another, he disapproved. This conflict is similar to the paradoxical nature of sprezzatura. The artist must diligently learn in order to become efficient; he must practice until his work becomes easy. The actual painting must reveal none of the skill and effort on which it is based. Grace results from this recklessness, this sprezzatura, this bold and rapid execution. Uccello's Battle of San Romano is too stiff, too rigid; it is obvious that the artist carefully constructed the scene. Vasari tells us that Piero often made models, clothed them in drapery, and studied them for hours to determine how light fell on the folds. His shortcoming, in terms of sprezzatura, is allowing the hours of diligent observation to manifest themselves in his work. In the Resurrection, his careful, deliberate style turns Christ to stone. Only if the effort had seemed to be effortless would this painting have been successful in Vasari's eyes.