Ghirlandaio is the family name of a workshop of artists and something of a trademark of this dynasty that, beginning in the second half of the 15th century, dominated the artistic scene of the Florentine Renaissance for a century. Domenico Ghirlandaio, much loved by wealthy Florentines and employed to decorate numerous chapels, may be the best known of the extended clan that is now the subject of an “event” – more so than an exhibition.The Ghirlandaio Family. Renaissance Painters in Florence and Scandicci is the first exhibition on the family in its entirety and it involves the whole area from Florence to Scandicci as well as various other places in the hinterland. It is the land in which the Ghirlandaio family lived and worked, rarely leaving it, disseminating it with masterpieces, so much so as to turn it into a spectacular and diffused museum. The main venue is the Castello dell’Acciaiolo in Scandicci (showcasing 15 works of art by the family). From here visitors may follow a double itinerary leading them to large and small museums, palazzos and churches, villas and abbeys which house dozens of panel paintings, altarpieces and frescoes.
About the Ghirlandaio family
Domenico (1449-1494) was the first artist in the Ghirlandaio family workshop; he was joined by his brothers David (1452-1525) and Benedetto (1458-1497), his half-brother Giovambattista, his brother-in-law Bastiano, and his son Ridolfo (1483-1561) – all men, you’ll notice. Numerous artists who were apprenticed to their school (Michelangelo being the most renowned) contributed to spreading in Italy and Europe their fame as masterly illustrators of Florence and its civitas.Now, in case you were wondering, the surname of Domenico Ghirlandaio was Bigordi, but he and his brothers ended up being identified with the nickname of their father, an excellent goldsmith renowned for his skill in making garlands (ghirlanda in Italian). From Scandicci, their homeland (now considered a suburb of the city of Florence), they moved to the center of Florence in the first half of the 15th century. The Ghirlandaio workshop was highly professional and well-balanced; very productive and divided up according skills and roles. For example, Domenico and Ridolfo were the true creative masters of colour, while others were extremely good at painting, and others still expert in workshop management, a factor not to be underestimated.
Buy a Ghirlandaio card for 5 euros if you’re going to follow this path. The Ghirlandaio event includes a free Sunday bus tour from Florence, which seems to be the best way to follow this itinerary, but if you want to to it yourself, all addresses are worked into the map below. The bus leaves at 9:30 am from Piazza Adua in Florence and will take you to Castello dell’Acciaiolo, Badia a Settimo, Museo di Arte Sacra di San Martino a Gangalandi (Lastra a Signa) and Museo di Arte Sacra di San Donnino (Campi Bisenzio). Return around 6pm to Florence. Reservation required with Sigma (055 2340742); they suggest you pack a lunch.The center of the exhibit is in Scandicci at Castello dell’Acciaiolo: on exhibit is the famous painting by Domenico (Saints James, Stephen and Peter), the beautiful Madonna byRidolfo (from the Fuligno Refectory) and another 14 works loaned by various museums in Florence (including things taken from the Uffizi storage areas, a treasure trove of things we’ve never seen). The itinerary than takes you to houses which belonged to the family in San Martino and Colleramole, in the millenary Settimo Abbey, in the Church of Sant’Andrea in Campi Bisenzio, in the Sacred Art Museums of San Donnino and San Martino a Gangalandi. And also Mosciano, Giogoli, San Martino alla Palma, and San Colombano. In Florence, you can continue exploring Ghirlandaio’s works on your own in the following locations:
- Frescoes in the Sala dei Gigli of the Palazzo Vecchio (free entry with the Card above)
- Palazzo Medici-Riccardi (reduced entry with the Card above)
- The Sassetti Chapel, Church of Santa Trinita
- The Tornabuoni Chapel, Church of Santa Maria Novella
- Adoration of the Magi at the Museo degli Innocenti.