Portrait of an Old man with a Young Boy
25 x 18 in. (63 x 46 cm)
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Domenico Ghirlandaio trained as a goldsmith. In 1490, the Duke of Milan received a report that described a handful of good artists available for work in one region. Of Domenico Ghirlandaio it was suggested that he was a notable painter of panels and a master of fresco. It went on to commend his work and to describe him as an efficient and prolific artist. Ghirlandaio employed hordes of assistants - one of whom was Michelangelo - in his prosperous, family-run business. Ghirlandaio is best known for his frescoes, in which he often set religious subjects in a secular setting and in which he included recognizable portraits. His largest commission, completed in 1490, depicting scenes from the lives of the Virgin and St John the Baptist, was in the Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Ironically, inAn Old Man and his Grandson, one of his best works, the identity of the protagonists remains a mystery. This naturalistic double portrait is an intimate and moving portrayal of a tender relationship between doting age and attendant youth. The loving young boy is oblivious to the old man's unfortunate physiognomy, a symptom of rhinophyma, from which he suffered.