Domenico Ghirlandaio, The Birth of the Virgin, a pen and brown ink drawing

Florence, Italy
About 1485-90

Domenico Ghirlandaio (about 1448/9-1494) was a talented and hardworking artist. One of his most ambitious works was a series of frescoes for the choir chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, for which he made this drawing.

The frescoes illustrated the life of the Virgin and St John the Baptist. This study for The Birth of the Virgin must have been drawn at a very early stage as the architectural setting was refined in later drawings. Ghirlandaio's principal aim here appears to have been the arrangement of the figures. These are shown as spindly bodies with blank ovals for heads and blobs as hands - a technique strikingly similar to Michelangelo's in some of his preliminary compositional sketches.

Ghirlandaio ran one of Florence's most successful workshops. His most famous pupil was Michelangelo, who joined the studio as an apprentice in 1487 and almost certainly assisted in the creation of these frescoes. Although later in life Michelangelo claimed to be entirely self-taught, Ghirlandaio's influence can be seen in his work.

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Domenico Ghirlandaio, The Birth of the Virgin, a pen and brown ink drawing

  • Ghirlandaio's The Birth of the Virgin fresco

    Ghirlandaio's The Birth of the Virgin fresco

 

More information

Bibliography

H. Chapman, Michelangelo drawings: closer (London, British Museum Press, 2005)

Dimensions

Height: 21.500 cm
Width: 28.500 cm

Museum number

PD 1866-7-14-9

PD06560

Location

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