GOZZOLI, Benozzo
(b. ca. 1420, Firenze, d. 1497, Pistoia)

Shrine of the Visitation

Transferred fresco
Biblioteca Comunale, Castelfiorentino

Two monumental shrines, of proportions similar to those of true chapels were frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli at Castelfiorentino, on the initiative of a single client, Ser Grazia di Francesco, prior of Santa Maria at Castelnuovo Val d'Elsa: the Shrine of the Madonna della Tosse, and the Shrine of the Visitation. Among the assistants who were given the job of translating the master's ideas into painting was probably his son Francesco.

The Shrine of the Visitation was located on Via Volterrana in Castelfiorentino, on a piece of land belonging to the Minorite nunnery of Santa Maria. Painted on the outside as well as the inside, it was exposed to the elements until 1872 when it was enclosed in a small chapel, but without repairing the damage caused by the flooding of the Elsa. It proved necessary in 1970 to detach the paintings which can now be seen in the Biblioteca Comunale of Castelfiorentino. A lost inscription, known to us from a document from 1632 citing it, mentioned Benozzo and his sons Francesco and Alesso as the authors and gave the date as February 12, 1491.

The pictorial ornamentation of the shrine has the consistency of an imposing mural cycle, divided into rows. On the altar wall there was an altarpiece depicting the Madonna and Saints. (All that remains is the upper part of the sinopia found during the detachment of the frescoes.) The arched vault, which has the Annunciation on the outside, bears the images of Christ Giving His Blessing and , underneath, the Evangelists and the Doctors of Church. They are followed, on the outside and inside, scenes from the life of Joachim, Anne, and Mary, some of which have been almost entirely destroyed.

Although much of the execution was entitled to his sons and assistants, the inventions and design of the shrine clearly bear the stamp of Benozzo Gozzoli.