April 30, 2009

The Art of Domenico Ghirlandaio

Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) was born Domenico di Curradi di Bigordi. He was nicknamed after the golden garland necklaces made by his father. Ghirlandaio was a religious painter first and foremost and was also one of the most popular and proficient portrait painters of the 15th century in Florence.

(Ghirlandaio, Domenico. Giovanna Tornabuoni nee Albizzi.
c. 1488. oil on panel. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, Spain.)

Giovanna Tornabuoni is one of the few surviving portraits by Ghirlandaio. The posthumous portrayal of Giovanna Tornabuoni depicts her as an ideal of beauty in formal profile, with her delicate features and sumptuous dress realistically highlighted against the dark background.

(Ghirlandaio, Domenico. The Birth of the Virgin.
c. 1486-90. fresco. Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy.)

The Birth of the Virgin was perhaps Ghirlandaio’s finest fresco. It is set in an architectural framework and painted in realistic detail. The setting owes more to contemporary Florence than to the Bible. He often incorporated portrayals of Florentine people and life into his religious works, such as the contemporary ships that are depicted in the background of the biblical painting, “ St. John the Baptist in the Desert.”

(Ghirlandaio, Domenico. Saint John the Baptist in the Desert.
c. 1486. fresco. Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella,
Florence, Italy.)

In the early 1480s Ghirlandaio was commissioned to paint frescoes in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence and in the Sistine Chapel. On his return to Florence in 1485, the Medici’s banker Francesco Sassetti commissioned him to paint a cycle of frescoes in S. Trinita and employed him to replace the frescoes in the Sassetti‘s family chapel.

(Ghirlandaio, Domenico. Saint Barbara.
c. 1471. fresco. Parish Church of Santa Andrea, Cercina.)

Ghirlandaio’s busy workshop was located in Florence, the city that is often described as the cradle of the Renaissance. It produced a number of altarpieces and society portraits, painted with often startling realism. It was here that the young Michelangelo was apprenticed. Ghirlandaio's paintings would instigate realism and inspire many of the future high renaissance painters of Italy. His work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy :)

Reference: King, R. Art. New York: Dk Publishing, 2008.