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The Visitation

Domenico Ghirlandaio

The Visitation

Domenico Ghirlandaio
  • Date: 1491
  • Style: Early Renaissance
  • Genre: religious painting
  • Media: panel, tempera
  • Tag: Christianity, saints-and-apostles, Virgin-Mary
  • Dimensions: 172 x 165 cm
  • Order Oil Painting

The Visitation is a painting by the Italian Renaissance painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, dating 1491. It is displayed in the Louvre Museum of Paris, France.

The work was commissioned by Lorenzo Tornabuoni for the church later known as Santa Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi.

The Visitation episode refers to the meeting between Mary and St. Elizabeth. It was set by Ghirlandaio with a large classical arch in the background featuring a landscape in the center. Elizabeth, wearing a wide yellow vest, is paying homage to Mary and kneeling.

The paintings features numerous details, including the refraction effects of the light, which Ghirlandaio studied from Flemish paintings at Florence. Others include: the frieze decorated with pearls and shells (allusions to Mary's purity), the light veil of the Madonna, the gilt brooch decorated with pearls and a ruby in the center (this a hint to Jesus' future Passion) which holds her cloak. The Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe of the Uffizi houses a preparatory drawing of Mary's cloak.

The two women at the sides are, as described by the inscriptions on the arch, Mary of Cleopas and Salome, whose presence hints to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Salome's dress is a citation of Filippo Lippi's Bartolini Tondo, which was the inspiration for numerous similarly graceful figures in works by Ghirlandaio, Botticelli and others.

Stylistic differences in the figures testifies the work of workshop assistants, perhaps Sebastiano Mainardi. On the lower right of the arch is the date MCCCCLXXXXI (1491). The city in the misty background could be a re-elaboration of Rome, as it includes a triumphal arch and the Pantheon.

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