Luxury Tuscany villa rental with art gallery and Domenico Ghirlandaio's paintings

Domenico Ghirlandaio

Domenico Ghirlandaio at Villa Tuscany

Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) was a Florentine painter during the Italian Renaissance period, noted for having trained Michelangelo in the art of painting.  His full name is given as Domenico di Tommaso Curradi di Doffo Bigordi; the nickname “Il Ghirlandaio” (garland-maker) was picked up from his father, a goldsmith who made garland-like necklaces for Florentine women. It appears Ghirlandaio was apprenticed to his father as a goldsmith but then changed disciplines to painting after he displayed a talent for portrait-making, a feature he will later incorporate into many famous works. Alesso Baldovinetti was his painting master. 

Ghirlandaio’s first paintings in Florence can still be seen in that city: a 1480 Saint Jerome in His Study in the Church of Ognissanti, a large Last Supper in its refectory and frescoes in the Sala dell Orologio of Palazzo Vecchio. 

Ghirlandaio also worked in other cities. In 1483 he was called to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV to paint a wall fresco in the Sistine Chapel (Christ calling Peter and Andrew to their Apostleship) before his pupil Michelangelo would paint the ceiling 25 years later. Closer to home, in the Tuscan village of San Gimignano, the artist created frescoes for the Chapel of Santa Fina in the Collegiata; they can still be seen in this pretty hilltown.

In 1485 he returned to Florence, where Ghirlandaio painted one of his masterpieces: a fresco cycle in the Sassetti Chapel of Santa Trinita church. The private burial chapel was commissioned by the powerful banker Francesco Sassetti, a manager of the Medici bank, who dedicated his family chapel to his patron saint, Francis of Assisi. On the walls are 6 scenes from the life of St. Francis, with detailed portraits of several contemporary Florentines including Sassetti and his family, Lorenzo de’ Medici with his sons, and a self-portrait of the artist. The frescoes are filled with faithful, detailed representations of specific areas of Florence, buildings, costumes and hairstyles which are still used today by historians as visual resources. 

Ghirlandaio’s next major project, another masterpiece, was the grand fresco cycle decorating the Tornabuoni Chapel painted for Giovanni Tornabuoni in the basilica of Santa Maria Novella. As manager to the Medici bank’s Rome branch, Tornabuoni was another powerful banker as well as ambassador to the Papal Court. In the chapel the artist paints  scenes from the lives of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. Like the previous chapel, these works also include historical portraits, including several portraits of the Tornabuoni family, Florentine humanists and scholars, and of course self-portraits of the artist and his family. Both of these chapels can be visited in Florence today where the frescoes appear in excellent condition. 

More works by the master, panel paintings rather than frescoes, can be viewed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. 

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