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

Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple

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

The narration of the story of Mary on the left wall of the chapel starts at the bottom at the entrance to the chapel with the Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple.

In the centre of the loggia with broad round arches and built on a cross-shaped ground plan, a high priest is receiving sacrificial lambs at the altar where a fire is burning. As the old Joachim does not yet have any descendants, he is not allowed to take part in the sacrificial rite, and is sent away. Symmetrical groups of Florentine citizens frame this biblical scene, and in the group on the right, the artist has depicted himself and some members of his family.

This episode follows the traditional lines of composition. Of significance here is the architecture, which the artist obviously felt was more important than the events. In the upper half of the painting it takes up more space than the figures, who occupy only the bottom part of the picture. The most important figures - and not only the biblical ones - are standing at the front edge of the picture. All the other scenes follow this basic principle.

In the background, Ghirlandaio's depiction of the widely spaced loggia and its medallions is a direct quotation of the Spedale degli Innocenti, the foundling hospital in Florence designed by Brunelleschi. Interestingly enough, there is a repetition of this façade, constructed shortly after Ghirlandaio's frescoes were painted, that can be seen when leaving the church of Santa Maria Novella at the other end of the piazza by the Spedale di San Paolo (built 1489 -1498).

Above the portraits are two palaces whose lines run parallel with those of the temple. Comparable buildings, with rusticated lower stories and open upper stories, largely characterize the appearance of Florence to this day. This was one way in which Ghirlandaio repeatedly brought the city into his paintings.

Contemporaries of the artist and clients are present as spectators and witnesses of the expulsion of Joachim, and because of their fashionable clothing and shoes and their vain hairstyles they differ conspicuously from the biblical participants. It is thought that the noblemen on the left include the client's son, Lorenzo Tornabuoni, and his friend Piero, the son of Lorenzo de' Medici. In the group at the right Ghirlandaio depicts famous contemporary artists (including himself) who can be identified from the description of Vasari as Alesso Baldovinetti, Bastiano Mainardi, Davide and Domenico Ghirlandaio.