Art History 11
Ghirlandaio’s Portrait of an Old Man with a Young Boy
Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Portrait of an Old Man with a Young Boy, was painted in 1490 with tempura on a wooden panel measuring 62 cm by 46 cm and is currently located in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The painting, posthumous, is a double portrait depicting the relationship shared between grandfather and grandson.
Taking up about three quarters of space in the painting, the viewer’s first glance falls upon the two figures in a warm embrace. The old man displayed above the waist and the young boy above the shoulders creates the allusion of the viewer being in close proximity to the two figures. Ghirlandaio’s placement of the old man on the side of the dark black and grey wall casts a shadow upon his silvery hair while the boy’s position by the window adds light to his wavy, blonde locks; a kind of play on life and death. The significant difference in age between them is highlighted through the use of light and shadow. The old man’s face sagging, wrinkled, heavy eyed, and darkly lit, except around his central features, is in complete opposition to the young boy’s illuminated, youthful, and innocent appearance.
The old man stands much taller than the young boy as he looks down at him while the young boy tilts his head back to look up at the old man. The viewer’s eyes are transfixed at the point where the young boy’s gaze lands. At the center of the painting and the focus of the young boys observation is the old man’s nose. The viewer concentrates in on the old man’s bulbous, lumpy, enlarged nose, a deformity caused by acne rosacea. However, rather than solely staring at the old man’s defect, in all its realistic repulsion, the viewer gladly averts their eyes for further analysis of the two figures. With closer scrutiny of the figures eyes and body language, the viewer senses the high regard in which grandfather and grandson hold towards one another.
The grandson’s kind eyes look at...