Domenico Ghirlandaio, the Master's Master
Those little is known of Early Renaissance painter
Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494), it is believed that the young
Florentine derives his name from his father's talent for making
garlands in his goldsmithing shop. Ghirlandaio's earliest works
date from the early 1470s, influenced significantly by Andrea
Vasari credits Alesso Baldovinetti as Ghirlandaio's
earliest teacher, but this appears to be inaccurate due to
similarity in age between the two artists.
Old Man and His
Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1490
Tempera on wood, 62 x 46 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
to see our
Known as a painter of fine detail, Ghirlandaio's style seems
to be based on casual observation and anecdote, somewhat stiff
in rendering unlike that of his contemporary Botticelli
whose style is more lush and lyrical. Influenced by the
symmetrical style of Fra Filippo
Lippi, Ghirlandaio later ran a large workshop and earned
important commissions like the two frescoes in the Collegiata
at San Gimiganano near Florence of the life of St. Fina
executed in 1475.
Ghirlandaio was particularly fascinated by the rendering of
portrait heads, and they show up often in his large scale
compositions. One such composition of ca. 1482 was commissioned
for the Vatican's Sistine Chapel depicting the calling of the
first Apostles, Andrew and Peter, and is peopled by prominent
Florentine citizens living in Rome. This work may be
politically related to the Pazzi
conspiracy of Medici fame.
Like Donatello, Ghirlandaio
apparently studied antique Roman imagery while in Rome because
its elements often show up in his workshop compositions. In the
1480s, Ghirlandaio's workshop executed two fresco cycles and a
tempera altarpiece for two Medici
bankers, Francesco Sassetti (fresco scenes from the life of St.
Francis of Assisi) and Giovanni Tornabuoni (fresco scenes from
the life of St. John and the Virgin).
The Tornabuoni commission was probably completed by the
workshop including a young Michelangelo
after Ghirlandaio's death is 1494. While Ghirlandaio himself
never received a major Medici commission, he was still
considered a significant painter of the Early Renaissance. His son
Ridolfo was also considered a notable painter. His other pupils
included Francesco Granacci and Giuliano Bugiardini.
Brenda Harness, Art Historian