Domenico Ghirlandaio, the early(ish) renaissance painter, is necessary to me for inspiration and for the sheer enjoyment of looking at and learning about his joyful, brilliant and beautiful works. The picture on the shelf is the 'Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni' from 1488. This reproduction was produced at the specific dimensions for a spare frame I serendipitously had in storage. It works marvellously for the tone and proportions of the picture. The three coats of varnish I applied have given a heightened vivacity to the print. It is one of my favourite paintings of all time - I really should go and see it in Madrid - this makes one wonder about the value and 'aura', as Walter Benjamin might say, of the original painting*. How is it that I can have such a connection to this painting without having seen it? I am constantly drawn to it in many ways. I have, however, seen many of Ghirlandaio's other paintings in Florence, notably in Santa Trinita and Santa Maria Novella. Giovanna Tornabuoni, I read earlier, died in this same year that the painting was made, of childbirth complications. How tragic. The painting has added poignancy with his knowledge. Whilst reading the book on Ghirlandaio by Gerald Stanley Davies I had a real sense that these people lived, they really lived. I had a strange sense of their quotidian presence, of the artist Domenico going into the church each day and setting about his incredible work. I thought about him sitting there at the easel and composing and looking at this elegant and serene woman Giovanna. This sense may have been heightened by the fact that he was often accompanied by his assistant Mainardi. I felt a deep connection to this through the superficial fact that my own name bears a similarity to his and that I too was once known as Mainardi due to my Italophilic nature. An incredible painting, artist and portrait subject.
*Walter Benjamin - The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is the book I am thinking about here. Also interesting on this subject is this podcast 'Philosophy Bites with Jesse Prinz'.