Domenico Ghirlandaio’s painting, The Visitation, was commissioned by Lorenzo Tornabuoni for the church of Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi in 1491. The painting portrays a key scene from the Bible where the Virgin Mary visits her pregnant relative Elizabeth, and both share their joy and blessing regarding motherhood. The artwork demonstrates Ghirlandaio’s outstanding craftsmanship with its exquisite technique and its portrayal of soft human emotion.
The model for the painting has been identified as Giovanna Tornabuoni, a cousin to Lorenzo Tornabuoni’s wife. Ghirlandaio’s intricate attention to detail characterizes this realistic depiction of two women deep in conversation at a garden entrance. The contrasting colors between both women elevate the painting’s realism element: Mary dressed in blue represents virginity while Elizabeth wearing red symbolizes love or excitement.
The Visitation is currently on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France – providing museum-goers with an opportunity to marvel at one of Italy’s early-Renaissance art treasures. Ghirlandaio’s mastery extends beyond this famous artwork into his fresco cycle on the walls of the Tornabuoni Chapel in Santa Maria Novella, Florence – painted between 1485-1490 using his workshop members as models. His work has since inspired generations of painters worldwide and cemented his reputation as one of Italy’s most formidable artists during his time.