Saturday, November 25, 2006

Critical assessment and legacy

Ghirlandaio's compositional schema were simultaneously grand and decorous, in keeping with the 15th-century's restrained and classicizing experimentation. His chiaroscuro, in the sense of realistic shading and three-dimensionalism, was reasonably advanced, as were his perspectives, which he designed on a very elaborate scale by eye alone, wthout the use of sophisticated mathematics. His color is more open to criticism, but this remark applies less to the frescoes than the tempera paintings, which are sometimes too broadly and crudely bright. His frescoes were executed entirely in what the Italians term buon fresco, without additions in tempera.

"Apotheosis of St. Zenobius" in the Palazzo Vecchio, FlorenceA certain hardness of outline may attest to his early training in metal work. Vasari says that Ghirlandaio was the first to abandon, in great part, the use of gilding in his pictures, representing by genuine painting any objects supposed to be gilded; yet this claim does not hold good for his entire oeuvre, since the landscape highlights in, for instance, the Adoration of the Shepherds, now in the Florence Academy, were rendered in gold leaf. Many drawings and sketches by this painter, now in the Uffizi gallery, are particularly remarkable for their naturalistic vigour of outline.

One of the great legacies of Ghirlandaio is that he gave some early art education to Michelangelo, who cannot, however, have remained with him long.

Ghirlandaio died of "pestilential fever" on the 11th of January 1494 and was buried in S. Maria Novella. He had been twice married and left six children, three of them sons. He had a long line of descendants, but the family died out in the 17th century, when the last members entered monasteries.