Birth of the Virgin


Ghirlandaio_Virgin.jpg

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

Alberti mentions the fifteen century practice of placing well-known citizens in religious paintings. [1] This tradition continued on into the late fifteen century and is represented in the "family patronage of public religious commissions." Furthermore this also gives scope for female portraits to be included in the genre of collective civic portraiture.[2] The frescoes of Ghirlandaio at Santa Maria Novella commissioned by Giovanni Tornabuoni illustrate the difference of men and women's ideal roles and behavior.[3]

The Birth of the Virgin is set in a contemporary Florentine bedroom where the Tornabuoni woman, Lodovica, has been inserted, which Tinagli states was considered by the viewer as "the ideal virginal young girl, modest and beautiful." [4] While the portrayal of Lodovica was important to the painting, two other figures are quite eye catching: the smiling woman holding the baby and the woman pouring the water whose clothes are windblown with exposed ankles. They serve as a contrast to the "ideal/real" renaissance woman - formal, poised and still, while the other figures embody some form of movement. [5]




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  1. ^ Alberti, Leon Battista, trans. J.R. Spencer. On Paintings. 1956. Reprint. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1966. 43. Print.
  2. ^ Tinagli, Paola. Women in Italian Renaissance Art: gender, representation, and identity. Manchester, UK and New York: Manchester University Press, 1997. Print.
  3. ^ Cadogan, Jeanne K., and Domenico Ghirlandaio. Domenico Ghirlandaio: artist and artisan. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000. Print.
  4. ^ Tinagli, Paola. Women in Italian Renaissance Art: gender, representation, and identity. Manchester, UK and New York: Manchester University Press, 1997. Print.
  5. ^ Bednarek, Anka, and Francis Lewis. Decorum in Renaissance narrative art. London: Birkbeck College, University of London, 1992. Print.