Domenico Ghirlandaio's mural painting of St. Jerome (fig. 1) from the Ognissanti Church in Florence, dated 1480, is remarkable for its precise and brilliant rendering of diverse objects, textures and surfaces, a specificity difficult to achieve in the medium of fresco. While the pendant fresco of St. Augustine (fig. 2) by Sandro Botticelli is comparable in size, type and composition, and exhibits a similar preoccupation with detail, the work has been singled out since the time of Vasari for the dramatic and exalted expression of its saintly subject. 1 Despite the suggestiveness of Botticelli's figure, it was not until 1970 that the frescoes were identified as being more than iconic depictions of the two saints in their studies. With his usual perspicacity, Millard Meiss in that year proposed that the frescoes should be read as an illustration of a vision experienced by St. Augustine and described in a letter now known to be apocryphal but given credence in the Renaissance. 2 In the letter, purportedly to St. Cyril, Augustine explained how he had resolved to write a treatise describing the joy of those souls who had achieved eternal bliss in paradise. Before beginning the treatise, Augustine decided to
Explorations in Renaissance Culture – Brill
Published: Dec 2, 1988
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