Theone asked:

As a total beginner in art, how suitable is this as a first book?

Eric For an intro to art history perhaps not the first choice. Try Gombrich's Story of Art. Or some of the Very Short Introducation series.
Martin Ridgway Depends what you're looking for (that's not me throwing the question back at you).
Which period are you interested in? As Eric says: there's going to be a Very Short Introduction to ... that covers that.
Gombrich's 'Story of Art' is good as a general history, even though it's a bit old-fashioned in its attitudes and coverage (we're only talking Europe and a bit of 'artist as genius' here).
So also add James Elkins 'Stories of Art' for a different approach.

ANd add all these recommendations together and you're still under the 2000+ pages of the full Vasari text!!
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