Ghirlandaio Paints "An Old Man and his Grandson"

The frescoes in Santa Maria Novella are overcrowded with detail, so that the compositions fail to make their full impact.

Some of Ghirlandaio’s smaller panel paintings, particularly the portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni (1488), have a simplicity that makes them far more striking than the frescoes of Santa Maria Novella. The portrait representing an old man with his grandchild (c. 1480–90) is perhaps Ghirlandaio’s finest painting, notable for its tenderness and humanity, as well as a simplicity and directness of handling.

Ghirlandaio was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the best painters of his generation. In the 19th century, however, the degree of realism in his work was decried by critics, who appreciated him only for his decorative qualities. His work has been reevaluated since the 1960s, and he is now regarded as one of the most eloquent and elegant narrators of Florentine society at the end of the 15th century.