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Portrait of Girolamo Benivieni
Probably by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio
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The sitter is almost certainly Girolamo Benivieni (1453–1542), a significant Florentine literary and political figure. Initially one of the intellectuals surrounding the cultured Lorenzo de' Medici, who effectively ruled Florence, he fell under the influence of the Dominican preacher and reformer Girolamo Savonarola, who persuaded the Florentines to form a populist republic. Benivieni denounced his own early love poetry and instead wrote songs to accompany the bonfires of frivolous and erotic objects organised by Savonarola’s youthful followers.

Ghirlandaio has made a detailed and sensitive study of the deep wrinkles and criss-cross lines of the old man’s face. The uninhabited, dream-like landscape evokes the realm of thought and poetry occupied by his mind. The pose and the hazy blue mountainous background suggest that Ghirlandaio had seen Leonardo’s Mona Lisa (Louvre, Paris). However, the crisp, carefully delineated face is more akin to the style of his father, Domenico Ghirlandaio, than to Leonardo’s subtle smoky rendition of Mona Lisa’s features.

Key facts
Artist Probably by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio
Artist dates 1483 - 1561
Full title Portrait of Girolamo Benivieni
Date made probably about 1510-20
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 70.5 x 56.2 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2491
Location in Gallery Not on display
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