The history of Giovanna Tornabuoni’s portrait

The Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni or of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni is one of the most interesting and influential masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance. Painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio, it is currently in the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, in Madrid.

Without a doubt, contemplating this piece of art is a luxury for the eyes. Are you interested in knowing more details about this masterpiece of the Renaissance?

Domenico Ghirlandaio, brushstrokes of his life

Domenico Ghirlandaio is a key painter in the history of painting. His work belongs to the so-called Florentine Quattrocento and is of unparalleled sophistication and technical proportions for the time. This painter was born in Florence on June 2, 1448 and died on January 11, 1494.


Few accurate data we have about his life, although Vasari included him in his biography of Renaissance artists. This work is one of the main sources on the life of this painter.

Ghirlandaio stood out not only for being one of the best painters of his time, but also because he directed a workshop in which, in addition to producing works of great quality, he was in charge of training young apprentices that they had the opportunity to participate in the commissions that Domenico received. Among them, there was one named Michelangelo.

The portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni

Among Ghirlandaio’s most outstanding works is this beautiful portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, a woman famous for her incredible beauty, coming from a Florentine noble family.

Her surname, Tornabuoni, is the one she adopted when married, since she was from the Albizzi family; hence she is also known as Giovanna Degli Albizzi. Before her death, she was married to Lorenzo Tornabuoni for two years; she died giving birth to her son in 1488.

The painting in which Ghirlandaio represented her has been dated between 1489 and 1490. He could be identified with Giovanna thanks to the fact that a medal was found in which his face and her name appeared. This medal had been made by the engraver Niccolò Fiorentino.

The model is shown in profile, and it is striking that her features have ideal proportions. The detail of the work is extraordinary and the realism of her hairstyle is surprising.the thoroughness with which the author has represented the details of her dress and the elements that serve to focus her scenery.

The use of perspective and geometry are already present in this painting, and they are the path that will mark part of the work of other Italian Renaissance artists. In the painting we find elements such as a rosary and a book, which show the hobbies of a young woman of her lineage.

A young woman who, it seems, had already served as a model for the painter on other occasions. A) Yes, we can see the image of Giovanna Tornabuoni in the frescoes of the main chapel of Santa Maria Novella, where it has an important role in the scene of The Visitation. In this fresco, coincidentally, Ghirlandaio represented her with the same hairstyle.

Where to see this Renaissance portrait

Currently, this painting is in the museum Thyssen Bornemisza, one of the best museums in the city of Madrid. The work is part of the collection that Baroness Thyssen has exhibited since 1988 as part of the agreement between the collector and the Government of Spain.

This collection houses first-order specimens, ranging from the fourteenth century to the eighties of the twentieth century. Its inauguration took place in 1992, and its proximity to the Prado and Reina Sofía Museums have made it part of the “Art Triangle” found on the so-called museum promenade.

To get to this museum and be able to see Giovana’s portrait, you can go on foot, by public transport and by taxi. There are many bus lines that pass through the area, and there are also subway stations nearby.

In this way, you will be able to contemplate one of the most beautiful and elegant portraits in the entire history of art with total practicality. It’s an ideal way to spend a day admiring beautiful faces, dreamy landscapes, and works by the world’s greatest artists without ever leaving this spectacular museum.

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