Birth of Mary by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Birth of Mary by Domenico Ghirlandaio

The plot of this fresco was included in a series of episodes devoted to the life story of Mary. These murals belong to the most famous and most revered works of the artist, and the fame of Ghirlandaio is associated primarily with the chapel of Tornabuoni. The background of the events was Florence. The scene of Mary’s birth scene is a spacious bedroom – a large hall that Ghirlandaio has seen many times, visiting the house of Tornabuoni.

The space of the hall is divided by pilasters with a molded pattern depicting lamps, which is repeated on the panels of walls from embossed leather or, more likely,

from wood or pietra serena. Above them stretches a golden inscription: Nativitas tua genitrix virgo gaudium annunziavit universe mundo. On the wall panels the artist left his signature: on the first panel – “Bigardi”, on the third – “Grillandai”. Dancing putti on the frieze, carrying trays of fruit, playing on cithara, cymbals and flutes among fluttering ribbons and veils, is an obvious reference to Donatello, the sculptor of the Florentine school. “In the second story – the Birth of Mary, executed with great care, among other notable features of it there is a window located in a perspective-built building and illuminating the bedroom and causing a deception of sight in everyone,

Through this window a warm light floods the room, illuminates the staircase, on which women have just visited Anna. They do not take part in what is happening, but they are frozen, like pilgrims on the threshold of the temple. Among them stands a very young girl in a velvet dress embroidered with gold, lightly bound by a rigid, stiff adult dress, probably for the first time wearing it. Most likely, it’s Giovanna Tornabuoni, the only daughter of a banker who, while replacing her deceased mother, plays her first official role in this ceremony. Four women behind her feel more free. In three of them, older, Ghirlandaio could portray the deceased mother of the girl and her aunts to Dianora and Lucretia. However, the main character is the girl – it was she who came to visit Saint Anna, reclining on a high bed, while maidens are preparing a bath for the newborn. The baby looks healthy and ruddy, ready to respond to the smile of the young nurse holding her in her arms.

The scene is permeated with soft light playing in splashing water. “One of them holds the child in his arms and, making a grimace, confuses him with feminine grace, truly worthy of a creation like this, not to mention many other feelings expressed by each figure.” On the left, above, on the stairs, the scene of the meeting between Joachim and Anna is almost imperceptibly played out – not at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem, but in front of the door of her house. “Ghirlandaio uncovered in his work, clear as the dawn of a summer day, the whole mystery of that courteous age in which he was fortunate to live and who possessed such charm that even his contemporaries exclaimed:” Oh blessed gods! What a happy time! “.

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