Domenico Ghirlandaio

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Domenico Ghirlandaio
Supposed self-portrait, from Adoration of the Magi, 1488
Born 1449
Florence, Italy
Died 11 January 1494(1494-01-11) (aged 45)
Florence, Italy (buried in the church of Santa Maria Novella)
Nationality Italian
Field Painter
Movement Italian Renaissance
Works Paintings in: Church of Ognissanti in Florence, Palazzo Vecchio, Santa Trinita, Tornabuoni Chapel in Florence and Sistine Chapel, Rome

Domenico Ghirlandaio 1449 – 11 January 1494) was an Italian painter. He painted during the Renaissance (about 1400-1600) in Florence. He is considered one of the most important painters of the Renaissance. He became the official portrait artist of the wealthy Florentine public around 1480.

Domenico was the leader of a large painting workshop. His brothers David Ghirlandaio and Benedetto Ghirlandaio and his brother-in-law Sebastiano Mainardi all worked in his workshop. His son Ridolfo Ghirlandaio was also an important painter in Florence.

Michelangelo Buonarroti was his most famous apprentice. He started his apprenticeship as a 13-year-old in Domenico’s workshop.

Biography[change | change source]

"Selfportrait", from the left, David Ghirlandaio, Bastiano or Sebastiano Mainardi and Domenico Ghirlandaio
"Portrait of a Young Woman," by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1485

Early years[change | change source]

Domenico was the eldest of six children. His father was Tommaso Bigordi and his mother Antonia di ser Paolo Paoli. His father was a a goldsmith and his uncle Antonio was a dealer of silks. Domenico had two brothers Davide Ghirlandaio and Benedetto Ghirlandaio. Tommaso had two more children with his second wife. Domenico's half-sister Alessandra (b. 1475) married the painter Bastiano Mainardi in 1494.[1]

Giorgio Vasari, an art historian, reported that Domenico learned first to be a jeweller or a goldsmith. He got his nickname "Il Ghirlandaio" (garland-maker) from his father, a goldsmith who was famous for creating metallic garland-like necklaces for Florentine women. In his father's shop, Domenico made portraits of the passers-by and visitors of the shop. He studied painting in Florence with artists Alesso Baldovinetti and possibly Andrea del Verrocchio. [2]

First works in Florence and Rome[change | change source]

Domenico painted frescoes for the Santa Fina Chapel in the Tuscan Collegiata di San Gimignano in 1475. A fresco is a type of painting where the paint is painted onto wet freshly laid plaster. Ghirlandaio painted the Saint Jerome in His Study and other frescoes in the Church of Ognissanti, Florence, and a life-sized Last Supper in its refectory (dining room), in 1480. From 1481 to 1485, he was working with the Sala dell'Orologio of the Palazzo Vecchio. For this Sala del Giglio he painted (1482), an huge work of art of St. Zenobius.

In 1483, Ghirlandaio was asked to go to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV to paint a wall fresco in the Sistine Chapel, called Christ calling Peter and Andrew to their Apostleship. He was also painting the Crossing of the Red Sea] in the Sistine Chapel, possibly with Cosimo Rosselli. He also painted other works in Rome, but these have been lost. His future brother-in-law, Sebastiano Mainardi, was helping him to paint these in Rome and also helped him with the frescoes at San Gimignano.

Early works[change | change source]

Back to Florence[change | change source]

Domenico Ghirlandaio came back to Florence in 1485, where he painted several big paintings at the Cappella Sassetti for a rich donor and banker Francesco Sassetti, the powerful manager of the branch of the Medici bank in Genoa, a position later filled by Giovanni Tornabuoni, Ghirlandaio's future patron.

In the chapel, Ghirlandaio painted six scenes from the life of Francis of Assisi, including Saint Francis obtaining from Pope Honorius the Approval of the Rules of His Order.

The first work is a portrait of Lorenzo de' Medici, and the third is a self-portrait. He also included this in one of his pictures in the Santa Maria Novella as well as in the Adoration of the Magi in the Florence. The altarpiece from the Sassetti chapel, with the Adoration of the Shepherds, is now in the Florentine Accademia.

After these paintings, Ghirlandaio was asked to repaint the frescoes in the choir of the Santa Maria Novella church, paid for by the Tornabuoni and Tornaquinci families. The Tornabuoni Chapel frescoes were painted by Ghirlandaio along the three walls. The main subjects are the lives of the Madonna and St. John the Baptist. These works include many portraits, a genre in which Ghirlandaio was very skilled.

Works[change | change source]

Other pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Jean K. Cadogan, Domenico Ghirlandaio: Artist and artisan, Yale University Press, 2000, pp. 14-15, 20.
  2. Passavant, Gunter: Verrochio Sculptures Paintings & Drawings (Phaidon. London.1969) p.45

Other websites[change | change source]