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

Obsequies of St Fina

1473-75
Fresco
Collegiata, San Gimignano

For her obsequies, in stark contrast, the beautiful saint is lying not on her wooden bed, but on a rich cloth and pillow in front of the altar. The living flowers have been changed into gold brocade that is shining on the black and dark turquoise cloth. Let us follow the inscription on her grave and look for the miracles depicted on the walls. Because the old nurse had held Fina's head for so long, her arms became paralysed. Now, kneeling behind the bier in the centre of the scene, she is healed by the touch of Saint Fina's hands. Another healing is taking place at the feet of the dead woman. Here, a blind boy regains his sight by touching his eyes to the saint's feet. A third miracle is taking place in the background on the left, where an angel has appeared to ring the death knell.

The painted pilasters that flanked the front pictorial zone of Ghirlandaio's early works are now integrated into the background of the picture as parts of a monumental sacred architecture. Behind the scene is an apse, which harmonizes with the chapel wall's tympanum at the top, and which also guides our eyes back to the centre of the scene. The vanishing point in this composition is the altar cross-flanked by two candles. Ghirlandaio would have found models for this architecture, which skillfully uses colourful marble, in the monumental tombs of his age - such as the work of Bernardo Rossellino in the church of Santa Croce in Florence. The immediate inspiration for the composition, however, was Fra Filippo Lippi's fresco in the choir of Prato Cathedral, the Obsequies of Saint Stephen. Ghirlandaio would later create another variation on this composition in a fresco for the Sassetti Chapel in Florence.




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