Birth of St John the Baptist


Creator: Domenico Ghirlandaio
Title: Birth of St John the Baptist
Date: 1486-90
Media: Fresco
Repository: Florence, Santa Maria Novella, Tornabuoni Chapel

The Birth of St John the Baptist can be quite difficult to differentiate from its neighboring fresco of the Birth of the Virgin, the differences are quite subtle. While the portraits in the latter are in profile pose, this fresco portrays a central figure who gazes the viewer directly. She is wearing attire that is quite stunning and contrasts greatly with the remaining females in the narrative. Behind the figure is an older, plainly dressed woman who according to Tinagli is Lucrezia Tornabuoni.[1] This type of portrayal in Lucrezia's appearance may have been because according to fifteenth century manuals on behavior and manners: the clothing women wore should be appropriate to social rank as well as income and age.[2]

Just as the two "moving figures" appear in the Birth of the Virgin, this fresco has a "moving figure" of its own: the attendant who is rushing in with the fruit tray on her head. The woman's clothes are light and quite revealing of her figure, there is also a lot of movement in the garment which seems out of place as no other figure has that type of movement in their garments. As mentioned before the figure serves as contrast to the poised ideal woman.[3]

Portrait of Maddalena Doni


  1. ^ Tinagli, Paola. Women in Italian Renaissance Art: gender, representation, and identity. Manchester, UK and New York: Manchester University Press, 1997. Print.
  2. ^ King, Margaret L.. Women of the Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Print.
  3. ^ Bednarek, Anka, and Francis Lewis. Decorum in Renaissance narrative art. London: Birkbeck College, University of London, 1992. Print.