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

Christ in Heaven with Four Saints and a Donor

c 1492
Tempera on wood, 308 x 199 cm
Pinacoteca Comunale, Volterra

The compositional scheme of a central figure surrounded by saints is used by Ghirlandaio in a work dating from about 1492: he depicts Christ, with his hand raised in blessing, enthroned on a cloud bank and surrounded by angels. The main lines of the garments, the contours of the figures, and their gazes all lead the eye to Christ, who crowns the composition of the picture. In the bottom right hand corner kneels the donor Fra Giusto Bonvicini, the abbot of a Camaldolese monastery. He is wearing the habit of the order of the so-called "white Benedictines", an order of hermits founded by Saint Romuald. Ghirlandaio structured this composition in an unusual manner, for the figures appear to be circling an empty central space. Here, however, we can see one of the most successful landscapes Ghirlandaio ever painted.

The bald-headed donor with the striking profile humbly takes his place among the saints worshipping Christ. These are arranged in a rigid symmetry. Two local female saints in shining red are kneeling, seen from behind, in the foreground. The two male saints, similar to the point of confusion, are standing like columns on either side.

The altarpiece was painted for the Camaldolite abbot Buonvicini of the Badia di San Giusto, outside Volterra, and now it is in the Civic Picture Gallery of that town.




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