Ghirlandaio and the Tornabuoni chapel VI

The Tornabuoni Chapel      Bottom view      Zoom in      Stained -glass window

Tornabuoni Chapel  Santa maria Novella
photos chapel: Diego Delso, delso.photoPierre-Selim Huard; window: Diotime; view: Abrey82

Ghirlandaio ‘Angel Appearing to Zacharias’        Zoom in      Scheme left wall
Study for the Angel Appearing to Zacharias, Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina

Ghirlandaio ‘Angel Appearing to Zacharias’   Tornabuoni chapel
Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Wien Inventarnummer 4860

Here too, as with the story on the opposite wall of Joachim being chased out of the temple, Ghirlandaio uses this prominent and eye-catching place to portray the most important male members of the family. Vasari also mentions the following:

Marsilio Ficino, Cristoforo Landino, Greek Demetrius and Angelo Poliziano
“Furthermore, to demonstrate that in their time numerous talents flourished, especially in literature, he painted at the bottom of the scene four half-figures conversing in a circle, the most learned men to be found in Florence at that time: the first, dressed as a canon, is Messer Marsilio Ficino; the second, in a red cloak with a black band around his neck, is Cristoforo Landino; then there is the Greek Demetrius, turning towards them; and between them, the one who raises his hand slightly, stands Messer Angelo Poliziano: all are depicted with utmost liveliness and animation.” Cited and translated from: Vasari, G., ‘De Levens van de grootste schilders, beeldhouwers en architecten Van Cimabue tot Giorgione’, Contact, Amsterdam, 1990 deel I blz. 253

The contemporaries are grouped into groups of three or more and do not participate in the story that takes place near the altar. In order to depict all the figures, Domenico Ghirlandaio applied a peculiar technique. On the left and right we see half-figures coming out of a room under the floor of the temple, something that doesn’t look particularly appealing. Would the patron, Giovanni Tornabuoni, at the last moment have demanded to depict these few figures?

Before Ghirlandaio started this fresco cycle, he did convincingly paint figures ascending stairs at the bottom of a picture plane for the Sassetti Chapel. If the answer to the above question turns out to be yes, then this might be an explanation for the unfortunate decision to add a few more figures.

Ghirlandaio ‘The Confirmation of the Franciscan Rule c. 1485 Sassetti Chapel

Ghirlandaio ‘The Confirmation of the Franciscan Rule'  Sassetti Chapel

Ghirlandaio ‘Visitation’      Zoom out      Albizzi-Tornabuoni (fresco)i     Landscape
Ghirlandaio ‘Giovanna Albizzi-Tornabuoni’     Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza Madrid

Ghirlandaio ‘Visitation’ Tornabuoni chapel

The contract concluded between Ghirlandaio and Giovanni Tornabuoni in 1485 indicated what was to be painted: ‘human figures, buildings, castles, cities, mountains, hills, plains, rocks, costumes, animals, birds and beasts of every kind.’

The story continues in the middle register. On the right we first see the birth of John the Baptist. As with the birth of Mary on the opposite wall, this event takes place in a typical Florentine interior. Here too the light enters through a painted window, while the natural light comes from the left. Elisabeth sits upright in her bed. In her left hand she is holding a book. At first glance she appears to be an ordinary woman, but an inconspicuous halo indicates that we are dealing with a saint. Behind her a young servant is handing out carafes with water and wine.

Ghirlandaio ‘Birth of John the Baptist’       Woman with the fruit basket

Ghirlandaio ‘Birth of John the Baptist’  Tornabuoni chapel

Ghirlandaio ‘Zacharias Writing John’s Name’      Study Naming of St. John

Ghirlandaio ‘Zacharias Writing John’s Name’ Tornabuoni chapel
British Museum

Continuation Florence day 5: Ghirlandaio and the Tornabuoni chapel VII