Domenico Ghirlandaio was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence. Among his many apprentices was Michelangelo. Ghirlandaio's full name is given as Domenico di Tommaso Curradi di Doffo Bigordi; it appears, therefore, that his father's surname was Curradi and his grandfather's Bigordi. Domenico, the eldest of eight children, was at first apprenticed to a jeweler or a goldsmith, most likely his own father. The nickname "Il Ghirlandaio" (garland-maker) came to Domenico from his father, a goldsmith who was famed for creating the metallic garland-like necklaces worn by Florentine women. In his father's shop, Domenico is said to have made portraits of the passers-by, and he was eventually apprenticed to Alessio Baldovinetti to study painting and mosaic.
Domenico Ghirlandaio was born in Italy in the year 1449. His family were affluent goldsmiths and fine craftsmen's. Early on he was known for having a creative, artistic mind. Ghirlandaio's greatness derived from his ability to depict high drama while retaining a lyrical sensitivity in his art. According to art historian, Bernhard Berenson, "Ghirlandaio was born to far more science and cunning in painting than was current in Benozzo’s early years, and all that industry, all that love of his occupation, all that talent even, can do for a man, they did for him; but unfortunately he had not a spark of genius. He appreciated Masaccio’s tactile values, Pollaiuolo’s movement, Verrocchio’s effects of light, and succeeded in so sugaring down what he 64 adopted from these great masters that the superior philistine of Florence could say: “There now is a man who knows as much as any of the great men, but can give me something that I can really enjoy!” Bright color, pretty faces, good likenesses, and the obvious everywhere—attractive and delightful, it must be granted, but, except in certain single figures, never significant. Let us glance a moment at his famous frescoes in Santa Maria Novella. To begin with, they are so undecorative that, in spite of the tone and surface imparted to them by four centuries, they still suggest so many tableaux vivants pushed into the wall side by side, and in tiers. Then the compositions are as overfilled as the sheets of an illustrated newspaper—witness the “Massacre of the Innocents,” a scene of such magnificent artistic possibilities. Finally, irrelevant episodes and irrelevant groups of portraits do what they can to distract our attention from all higher significance. Look at the “Birth of John”; Ginevra dei Benci stands there, in the very foreground, staring out at you as stiff as if she had a photographer’s iron behind her head. An even 65 larger group of Florentine housewives in all their finery disfigures the “Birth of the Virgin,” which is further spoiled by a bas relief to show off the painter’s acquaintance with the antique, and by the figure of the serving maid who pours out water, with the rush of a whirlwind in her skirts—this to show off skill in the rendering of movement. Yet elsewhere, as in his “Epiphany” in the Uffizi, Ghirlandaio has undeniable charm, and occasionally in portraits his talent, here at its highest, rises above mediocrity, in one instance, the fresco of Sassetti in Santa Trinità, becoming almost genius."
The ruling Church hierarchy adored his harmonious, lyrical style and the commissions rolled in. Along with his brothers and children he ran an industrious workshop, churning out endless masterpieces. Ghirlandaio's shrewd business practices allowed him to live high on the hog until his untimely death from a plague outbreak. He is considered one the greatest Early Renaissance painters of all time.