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

Madonna of Mercy

c. 1472
Ognissanti, Florence

"His first paintings were in the Chapel of the Vespucci at Ognissanti, representing a dead Christ and some saints, and a Misericordia over an arch, containing a portrait of Amerigo Vespucci, who navigated the Indies..." (Vasari).

The date of the chapel's construction is 1472. We can date the frescoes immediately afterward. In these Ognissanti frescoes the inspiration of Baldovinetti is marginal; more obvious are certain elements acquired from Andrea del Castagno and some clear, vivid colours that are reminiscent of Domenico Veneziano. Most interesting, however, is the artistic personality of Ghirlandaio himself, so well defined at this early age, and that attentive observation of man in every physical and interior detail that made him such an able portraitist.

Here is the old man, probably the head of the family, seen from behind, kneeling, solidly built, his lean face with its hard features softened by the whiteness of his fine hair. The older woman in a cloak stands out in a contrast of lights and colours. Serenely clear, on the other hand, is the younger woman, with her hair gathered into plaits and her ample forehead shaved back according to the Florentine fashion of the time. The expression on the face of the boy, thought to be Amerigo Vespucci, is intense; his face, with its full lips and large clear eyes, is still chubby, pinkish and childlike. Domenico's attention seems to have lingered on the figures, perhaps in prayer, right there in Ognissanti, his brush faithfully reproducing and individualizing the features of each of them.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.