National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Madonna and Child Domenico Ghirlandaio (artist)
Florentine, 1449 - 1494
Madonna and Child, c. 1470/1475
tempera on panel transferred to hardboard
painted surface: 70.8 x 48.9 cm (27 7/8 x 19 1/4 in.) overall size: 73 x 50.2 cm (28 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.) framed: 115.6 x 89.2 x 7.6 cm (45 1/2 x 35 1/8 x 3 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.49
Not on View
From the Tour: Patrons and Artists in Late 15th-Century Florence
Object 6 of 8

In a city filled with artists, the busiest workshop in the later 1400s was that of Domenico Ghirlandaio. His popularity rested on the conventional piety of his images, his direct and forthright style, and his high standards of craftsmanship. These qualities probably appealed to the average Florentine, who was less attracted by the humanist erudition and advanced tastes that enthralled the city's elite. Works like this devout image contrast with the sensuality and luxury denounced by Savonarola.

The gold background is unusual—a little old-fashioned for a painting done in the 1470s. It is not clear whether the present gilt surface (not original) replaced original gilding or was applied over a now-obliterated landscape, such as seen elsewhere in this room. If the painting was gilded from the outset, this would have been specified in the contract between artist and patron. Until the mid-fifteenth century, the intrinsic value of materials—gold and costly pigments such as ultramarine, which is made from the semiprecious stone lapis lazuli—accounted for much of a painting's worth. By the time this work was made, however, the emphasis had shifted. Patrons had come to value instead the skill of the painter, as we do today.

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