The Stories of St Fina at San Gimignano (1473-75)
by Domenico GHIRLANDAIO

Violets flower in March in San Gimignano, a town of many towers; they are celebrated as the "Fiori di Santa Fina", the flowers of Saint Fina, the town's patron saint. Fina, the pious daughter of poor parents, died on the feast day of Saint Gregory in 1253 after a long and painful illness. She was just fifteen years old. According to legend, after the death of her mother Fina lived an ascetic lifestyle so strict she was, in the end, scarcely able to move. At the instant she died, white, beautifully scented flowers blossomed forth from her bed of pain.

Between 1468 and 1472, architect Giuliano da Maiano built Saint Fina's mortuary chapel in the collegiate church (his brother Benedetto da Maiano created the saint's burial altar about 1475) and Ghirlandaio covered the walls with frescoes. Both artists were working in direct competition with each other, for they were depicting the Obsequies of Saint Fina side by side, each using his own medium, fresco and relief carving. The entire layout of the magnificent ensemble, which is still in its original location, is reminiscent of Antonio Rossellino's mortuary chapel for the Portuguese cardinal dating from 1461-66 in the Florentine church of San Miniato al Monte, the frescoes for which were painted by Ghirlandaio's first teacher, Alessio Baldovinetti.

The year in which the frescoes in the chapel of St Fina were executed can be fixed almost with certainty at 1475 or shortly after. There are two Stories of St Fina: the Apparition to Fina of St Gregory who announces her Death and the Obsequies of the Saint.

It was in the frescoes for this chapel Ghirlandaio was able to develop his own style. The two frescoes in the Saint Fina Chapel are the first major works of Ghirlandaio's career. There are already signs of the architecture that will feature in his later works, here imaginatively and skillfully constructed according to the laws of perspective. The spaces appear to be filled with light and air and to create a bright atmosphere that is enhanced by the luminous colours of Domenico Veneziano. Also evident here is Ghirlandaio's ability, which was much appreciated by his patrons, of including them and their families in religious scenes.

Preview Picture Data Info
View of the Chapel St Fina
1473-75
Fresco
Collegiata, San Gimignano


Interior of the Chapel St Fina
1473-75
Fresco
Collegiata, San Gimignano


Announcement of Death to St Fina
1473-75
Fresco
Collegiata, San Gimignano


Announcement of Death to St Fina (detail)
1473-75
Fresco
Collegiata, San Gimignano


Announcement of Death to St Fina (detail)
1473-75
Fresco
Collegiata, San Gimignano


Obsequies of St Fina
1473-75
Fresco
Collegiata, San Gimignano


Obsequies of St Fina (detail)
1473-75
Fresco
Collegiata, San Gimignano


Obsequies of St Fina (detail)
1473-75
Fresco
Collegiata, San Gimignano


Vaulting of the Chapel of St Fina
1473-75
Fresco
Collegiata, San Gimignano



Summary of works by Ghirlandaio
1. Early works (1471-73)
2. Stories of St Fina at San Gimignano (1473-75)
3. Frescoes in Florence and Rome (1480-84)
4. Last Supper scenes
5. Decoration of the Sassetti Chapel (1482-85)
6. Frescoes in the Tornabuoni Chapel (1486-89)
7. Panel paintings
8. Adoration of the Magi (1488)
9. Drawings



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