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

Angel Appearing to Zacharias

Fresco, width 450 cm
Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

The first scene of the stories of St John the Baptist, the Angel Appearing to Zacharias is represented at the bottom on the right wall.

Vasari wrote: "Domenico introduced a goodly number of Florentine citizens, who were then members of the Government, and especially all the members of the Tornabuoni family".

In this fresco Ghirlandaio portrayed a considerable number of contemporary political figures and members of the donor families - such as Giuliano, Gian Francesco and Giovanni Battista Tornabuoni on the right, together with Giovanni Tornaquinci. Those portrayed are not taking part in the biblical events; rather, it seems important to them to be seen in this context. The artist arranges them in groups of three, four and five figures on various ground levels, so that they do not overlap too much. As a result, the front groups are standing at the edges of the picture in rather absurd holes - an artistic device that Ghirlandaio employed with considerably more skill in the Sassetti Chapel by making the figures climb a flight of steps. It is likely that the artist had to accede to the wishes of his client and incorporate all these figures, relatives and friends, into the scene. In the process he once again showed himself to be a superb portrait painter with the talent to create character studies with a psychological profundity.