In Scandicci just outsideFlorence’s city limits, there is the complex of Castello dell’Acciaiolo and its park. A few decades ago, this suburb was mostly open countryside with a few scattered parishes where in the 14th century a castle was built for security reasons.

It is because Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-94) and his family had close connections with the Scandicci area that an exhibition ‘Ghirlandaio, una famiglia di pittori del Rinascimento tra Firenze e Scandicci’ has beenput up on the ground floor of the castle.

Ghirlandaio’s real name was Domenico di Tommaso Bigordi. His father made garlands, hence the nickname. The family had a flourishing business in Florence and in due course Domenico and his family bought a house inScandicci.

They lived there while keeping busy in Florence. Besides being one of the greatest Florentine artists of his time, Domenico had two very talented younger brothers, also artists: David (1451-1525) and Benedetto (1458-97) and of course his own son Ridolfo (1483-1561).

They were all busy artists and David also looked after the financial side of the business. Working with them as well was a brother-in-law of the Ghirlandaiobrothers, Sebastiano Mainardi, (c.1466-1513).

The family’s Scandicci connection was so close that after he had done some work in Rome, Domenico decided to return to Florence and to his country house.

His son Ridolfo, a close friend of Raffaello’s, resisted all the latter’s invitations to join him in Rome.

Ridolfo always preferred to remain in Florence and its environs, saying that he would only be happy as long as he could see “the [Brunelleschi] cupola”.

Domenico, one of the best portrayers of the Florence of his time, died early. In due course, Ridolfo became director of the family workshop.

Among his closest followers was Michele Tosini (1503-77), also known as Michele di Ridolfo. It is also mainly through Tosini’s later work that Ridolfo is seen as a link with Mannerism.

The works on display, mostly come from various Florentine galleries and museums and include works with a direct connection with the Scandicci area’s churches and monasteries. By Domenico, I could see only two works, those of the saints James, Stephen and Peter, a late work from c.1493 and The Adoration of the Magi (c.1489) now in the Museo degl’Innocenti. A detail is actually a self-portrait showing a determined looking handsome man of about 40.

Ridolfo’s work seems to dominate the exhibition. His earliest known piece here is a Madonna and Child between Saints Francis and Mary Magdalen (1503) from the church of Mosciano. His uncle David is represented by a fresco, crucifixion and saints, c.1490.

More of Ridolfo’s works include two panels of angels, and also a fresco of the Madonna and Child. The latter is very faint, with the Madonna only just discernible.

Also Ridolfo’s is a later impressive Madonna, Child and St John and a portrait of the young 12-year-old Cosimo de’ Medici (1531), future ruler of Tuscany.

It is a remarkable psychological study of the sitter’s already evident strength of character. Next to this portrait is another Ridolfo masterpiece, Man with Cap (1517).

Michele Tosini worked with his master on The Mystical Wedding of St Catherine (with various saints), while from the workshop of Tosini comes a Holy Family with St John.

Also in close contact with Ridolfo was another pupil, Domenico Puligo (1492-1527) who, in his St Mary Magdalen, shows how he inherited the master’s style in the way he blends colours. There are some other works by artists closely connected with the Ghirlandaio family, such as Francesco Granacci, Bartolomeo di Giovanni and Lorenzo di Credi.

In keeping with the exhibition theme, a number of works come from Colloreale, San Martino alla Palma and San Colombano .

A video documentary helps the visitor appreciate the exhibition and provides interesting details about this extraordinary family and its highly respected role in the history of Florentine art.

The exhibition closes next Sunday.

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