Essay by titusrenHigh School, 11th gradeB, May 2004

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Domenico di Tommaso Bigordi was born in 1449. Domenico started his artistic career working with his father, who was a goldsmith. He was later nicknamed Ghirlandaio, because of his father's skill at making garlands. In Lives, Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari wrote that Ghirlandaio was a student of painter Alesso Baldovinetti. Unlike most other Renaissance painters, Ghirlandaio did not experiment with oil painting, but preferred to work in large-scale fresco. The churches of Cercina and Ognissanti Italy are said to house Ghirlandaio's earliest works and date from the early 1470's. These frescoes demonstrate the beginning of the artist's style. In one work, Ghirlandaio uses members of the Vespucci family as mourners in a Pieta scene, already demonstrating Ghirlandaio's use of portraiture in religious scenes. Ghirlandaio's first major commission was by the Chapel of Santa Fina in the Collegiata at San Gimignano frescoes on the life of St. Fina. These works, reminiscent of Fra Filippo Lippi, demonstrate Ghirlandaio's use of symmetrical scenes and stiff figures.

In about 1481, Ghirlandaio received an important commission from The Vatican, requesting that he paint the calling of saints Andrew and Peter in the Sistine Chapel. Its style is reminiscent of the frescoes by Masaccio of about 1427, which had been the great innovating works of the early 15th century in Florence but by then must have seemed somewhat old-fashioned. The principal feature of this fresco is the group of portraits of the Florentine colony in Rome, who are represented as witnesses of the biblical event. It has been suggested that the inclusion of these Florentines in a fresco painted for the Vatican had political significance, because the Florentine government had recently accused Pope Sixtus IV of complicity in the conspiracy of the Pazzi, another powerful Tuscan banking family, to murder the leading members of the Florentine...