Ghirlandaio, Domenico

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Ghirlandaio, Domenico

Ghirlandaio or Ghirlandajo, Domenico (both: dōmĕˈnēkō gērländäˈyō), 1449–94, Florentine painter, whose family name was Bigordi. He may have studied painting and mosaics under Alesso Baldovinetti. Ghirlandaio was an excellent technician. Keenly observant of the contemporary scene, he depicted many prominent Florentine personalities within his religious narrative paintings. Among his earliest frescoes are the Madonna with the Vespucci Family and the Last Supper (Church of the Ognissanti, Florence). He painted scenes from the life of Santa Fina (collegiate church in San Gimigniano) and frescoes in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. In 1481, Pope Sixtus IV called him to Rome, along with Botticelli, to decorate the Sistine Chapel. He painted the Calling of the First Apostles, a scene close in spirit to Masaccio. He returned to Florence to work on the frescoes in the Sassetti Chapel in Santa Trinita. He introduced Sassetti, Corsi, Poliziano, the Medici, and many other contemporaries as participants in the life of St. Francis. Ghirlandaio's most famous achievement is his fresco cycle of the life of Mary and St. John the Baptist for the choir of Santa Maria Novella. Michelangelo served an apprenticeship with him at this time and probably worked on these frescoes. Other examples of his art are the Adoration of the Magi (Uffizi); another Adoration (Hospital of the Innocents); a mosaic of the Annunciation for the Cathedral; a portrait of Francesco Sassetti and his son (Metropolitan Mus.); a portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni (Morgan Lib., New York City); and the highly realistic portrayal of Grandfather and Grandson (Louvre).
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Ghirlandaio, Domenico


(pseudonym of Domenico di Tommaso Bigordi). Born 1449 in Florence; died there Jan. 11, 1494. Italian painter of the early Renaissance; representative of the Florentine school. Son of a jeweler.

Ghirlandaio studied under A. Baldovinetti, and in works of his early period (for example, the frescoes in the church at San Gimignano, c. 1475), was influenced by a number of 15th-century Florentine and Dutch masters. In 1481-82, Ghirlandaio journeyed to Rome, where he did the fresco Christ Calling Saints Peter and Andrew in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

Study of classical art influenced Ghirlandaio’s mature style. His works from the middle of the 1480’s to the 1490’s (including fresco cycles on themes from the lives of St. Francis, Mary, and John the Baptist, in the Sassetti Chapel of the church at Santa Trinitá, 1483-86, and in the church of Santa Maria Novella, 1485-90, in Florence) are typical of his architectonic clarity of composition and of the calm solemnity of treatment of his subjects. Well-defined in spatial structure, elegant and softly restrained in coloring, Ghirlandaio’s frescoes, in which the action unfolds against a background of the squares and buildings of Florence, abound in genre details and offer a rich picture of Florentine life. He included many portraits of his contemporaries in these frescoes, including likenesses of Lorenzo the Magnificent, A. Poliziano, and M. Ficino. Ghirlandaio also did a number of easel paintings, such as the Adoration of the Magi (1485; church of Santa Trinitá, Florence), and portraits, in which the immediacy of observation is combined with both an ability to generalize and a profound humanity (such as in An Old Man and His Grandson at the Louvre, Paris).


Lauts, J. Domenico Ghirlandajo. Vienna, 1943.


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