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Ghirlandaio was born in June 1448, in Florence, Italy. He was born as Domenico di Tommaso di Currado di Boffo Bigordi, in a family of six children. Only his two brothers, Benedetto and Davide Ghirlandaio survived - who became future collaborators. His father was probably his first teacher, and since he was a garland-maker, he was the reason for Domenico’s nickname “Il Ghirlandaio”(the garland-maker). According to Giorgio Vasari, Domenico’s earliest portraits were in his father’s shop, where he would immediately try the capture the likenesses of customers and passers-by. He eventually studied painting and mosaic under Alesso Baldobinetti and later under Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence, where he would maintain close relations with Florentine painters such as Perugino and Botticelli.
By his 20s, Domenico was a considerably respected and recognized artist. Especially famous for his frescoes, he was already receiving grand commissions, such as decorating the Chapel of Santa Fina. In 1480, Domenico executed St. Jerome in His Study in the Church of Ognissanti, Florence, the painting is a companion to Botticelli’s Saint Augustine in His Cell. Domenico also executed a life-sized painting depicting the Last Supper in the church’s refectory. He was employed at the Palazzo Vecchio, producing frescoes for four years. There he painted an Apotheosis of St. Zenobius, an over-life-sized painting of intricate composition and elaborate perspective, among other great artworks.
In 1485, Domenico executed what would often be considered one of his masterpieces: a series of 6 frescoes depicting scenes from Saint Francis of Assisi’s life. The work was commissioned by the director of the Medici Bank, the powerful Francesco Sassetti. Also for the Sassetti Chapel, Domenico executed the Adoration of the Shepherds, the picture is treated with rather advanced realism, regarding the Florentine painting at the time. Domenico’s popularity would only grow, awarding him with several commissions from distinguished patrons and families. Amongst them, there were the Tornabuoni and Tornaquinci families, who were patrons for his work on the Tornabuoni Chapel - which had the lives of St. John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary as the main subject.
Although Ghirlandaio is best known for his frescoes, he executed several notable panel paintings, such as the Adoration of the Magi, Christ in Heaven with Four Saints and a Donor, and Visitation, which is now at the Louvre Museum. Domenico Ghirlandaio died in 1494 of “pestilential fever”. He married twice and had six children, one of them, Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, who also became a painter.