GHIRLANDAIO, Domenico
(b. 1449, Firenze, d. 1494, Firenze)

Resurrection of the Boy

1483-85
Fresco
Santa Trinità, Florence

The official prestige value of the upper picture on the main chapel wall (the Confirmation of the Rule) is clear. In contrast, the fresco beneath it, directly above the altarpiece, is devoted to the Sassetti family's private history. In 1478, the year of the Pazzi plot, their son Teodoro died; but a few months later Nera Corsi Sassetti gave birth to a second son. As they felt him to be a gift from God, they made yet another change in the plans for the altar wall in their mortuary chapel. Ghirlandaio had to abandon his design for a scene showing the appearance of Saint Francis in Arles, for which preliminary drawings still exist, and paint the Resurrection of the Boy. This was how the Sassetti intended to express their gratitude for their new-bon son Teodoro II.

The events in the Resurrection of the Boy are taking place just outside the church of Santissima Trinità at the Ponte Santissima Trinità. "... In it he represented the Ponte Santissima Trinità (the old one, by Taddeo Gaddi; the present one was built by Ammannati almost a hundred years later) with the palace of the Spini, the first scene showing the appearance of St Francis in the air to raise a child of that family... and other figures who are marvelling and rejoicing at the miracle, affording no little pleasure to the rest of us. Among them are portraits of Agnolo Acciaioli, Palla Strozzi..." (Vasari).

While playing, a boy falls out of the windows of the Palazzo Spini. A red ball falling to the street below him. Some passers-by see the falling child, rush up in help, but it is too late: the child is dead. The boy who met with the fatal accident is already lying on a bier surrounded by mourners. Then, however, two Franciscans succeed in interceding with Saint Francis on their behalf, and the child is brought back to life. The artist moved this miracle from Rome where it actually took place, to Florence - just outside the church in which the picture is painted in order to be able to incorporate many of the portraits requested by the donor in the groups of onlookers.