The Burial of Saint Zenobius

Davide Ghirlandaio (David Bigordi) (Italian, Florence 1452–1525 Florence)

ca. 1479
Tempera and gold on wood
6 1/4 x 16 1/4 in. (15.9 x 41.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Francis L. Leland Fund, 1913
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Davide Ghirlandaio painted these three enchanting scenes about 1479 for the base (predella) of an important altarpiece commissioned from his brother, Domenico, for the church of San Giusto alle Mura outside Florence. Two further scenes are known; the main panel is in the Uffizi in Florence.

    According to legend, at the burial of Saint Zenobius a dead tree sprang to life when it was touched by the saint's bier. The baptistery and campanile of the cathedral of Florence provide the setting. Florence appears in the background of the scene where Tobias catches a fish whose innards will heal his father’s blindness.

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Provenance

    church of San Giusto alle Mura, Florence (by June 1486–1529); church of San Giovannino, later called San Giusto della Calza, Florence (1531–?about 1827); Johann Metzger, Florence (by 1827–about 1828 or later); M. J. Rhodes, England (until 1869); Henry Labouchere, Lord Taunton, Taunton, Somerset (until d. 1869); his daughter, Hon. Mary Dorothy Labouchere, Quantock Lodge, Bridgewater, Somerset (1869–1913; sold to Douglas and Horne); [R. Langton Douglas and Herbert P. Horne, London, 1913; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.

  • References

    Francesco Albertini. Memoriale di molte statue et picture. . . . Florence, 1510 [reprinted in "Five Early Guides to Rome and Florence," intro. by Peter Murray, Farnborough, England, 1972], mentions the altarpiece painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio for the Gesuati [see Notes].

    Giorgio Vasari. Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori. 1906 ed. Florence, 1568, vol. 3, pp. 257, 570, describes the altarpiece painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio for the Gesuati, and notes that it had been removed to the church of San Giovannino.

    Francesco Bocchi. Le bellezze della città di Fiorenza. Florence, 1591, p. 63 [reprinted with intro. by John Shearman, Gregg International, London?, England, 1971], mentions the altarpiece as in the church of San Giovanni and attributes it to Domenico Ghirlandaio.

    Francesco Bocchi. Le bellezze della città di Firenze. Florence, 1677, p. 126.

    Giuseppe Richa. Notizie istoriche delle chiese fiorentine. 9, Florence, 1761, p. 103, mentions the altarpiece and its predella as in San Giusto della Calza, and attributes it to Domenico Ghirlandaio.

    C. F. von Rumohr. Italienische Forschungen. 2, Berlin, 1827, pp. 285, 287, attributes the predella to Sebastiano Mainardi.

    C. F. von Rumohr. Letter to Bunsen. July 28, 1828 [published in F. Stock, "Rumohrs Briefe an Bunsen über Erwerbungen für das Berliner Museum," Jahrbuch der Preuszischen Kunstsammlungen 46 (1925) Beiheft p. 10].

    C. F. von Rumohr. Letter to Bunsen. June 30, 1828 [published in F. Stock, "Rumohrs Briefe an Bunsen über Erwerbungen für das Berliner Museum," Jahrbuch der Preuszischen Kunstsammlungen 46 (1925) Beiheft p. 7], as probably by Sebastiano Mainardi.

    B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Panels by Botticini." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 8 (October 1913), p. 214–15, ill., attributes the panels to Botticini.

    Paul Erich Küppers. Die Tafelbilder des Domenico Ghirlandaio. Strasbourg, 1916, p. 87, publishes a document from 1486 that mentions Domenico Ghirlandaio's altarpiece for the Gesuati [see Notes], indicating that the work was completed and in place by that date.

    Osvald Sirén. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures in the Jarves Collection Belonging to Yale University. New Haven, 1916, p. 122, under no. 44, attributes the panels to Botticini.

    G[eorg]. Gronau. "Notes on Pictures in the National Gallery." Apollo 4 (August 1926), pp. 72–76, identifies the panels in London and Detroit [see Notes] as part of the predella of Domenico Ghirlandaio's altarpiece for San Giusto alle Mura, attributing them to an assistant though noting that the Detroit panel may be by Domenico himself; deduces possible subjects for the other three predella panels, then unknown to him.

    Georg Gronau. "The Lost Predella of an Altarpiece by Domenico Ghirlandaio." Art in America 16 (December 1927), pp. 20, 25, figs. 2 (reconstruction), 5, reconstructs the San Giusto altarpiece with a predella composed of the MMA, London, and Detroit panels; illustrates them as by the shop of Domenico Ghirlandaio, stating "the composition of these individual panels may undoubtedly be attributed to the head of the Ghirlandajo workshop".

    Walter Heil. Catalogue of Paintings in the Permanent Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts of the City of Detroit. 1, 1930, unpaginated, under no. 86, accepts Gronau's [see Ref. 1927] reconstruction.

    Raimond van Marle. "The Renaissance Painters of Florence in the 15th Century: The Third Generation." The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 13, The Hague, 1931, pp. 53–55, accepts Gronau's [see Ref. 1927] reconstruction, attributing the Detroit panel to Domenico Ghirlandaio but the MMA and London panels to an assistant.

    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 225, lists the MMA panels as products of Domenico Ghirlandaio's workshop.

    Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 194.

    F. Mason Perkins. Letter. March 24, 1938, considers the MMA panels close in style to Domenico Ghirlandaio but not by him.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 52–54, ill., attributes the panels to Domenico Ghirlandaio and discusses them in relation to the London and Detroit panels as originally forming the predella to the San Giusto altarpiece.

    Walter Paatz and Elisabeth Paatz. Die Kirchen von Florenz. 2, Frankfurt am Main, 1941, pp. 278, 282–83 n. 37, attribute the predella panels to Domenico Ghirlandaio and his shop.

    Jan Lauts. Domenico Ghirlandajo. Vienna, 1943, p. 50, under no. 33, calls the panels part of the predella of the San Giusto altarpiece, and considers them essentially workshop products.

    Martin Davies. The Earlier Italian Schools. London, 1951, pp. 169–171, under no. 2902, details the history of the San Giusto altarpiece and agrees that the MMA, London, and Detroit panels belonged to its predella, suggesting that they were partly or wholly executed by Domenico Ghirlandaio's assistants.

    George Kaftal. Iconography of the Saints in Tuscan Painting. Florence, 1952, col. 1041, attributes it to the shop of Domenico Ghirlandaio.

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, p. 76.

    Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. New York, 1971, pp. 129–133, ill., attribute the predella to Domenico Ghirlandaio with possible workshop assistance; accept the reconstruction first advanced by Gronau [see Ref. 1927] and date the altarpiece 1480–85.

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 83, 454, 606, as from the "school, shop, or studio" of Domenico Ghirlandaio.

    Everett Fahy Harvard University. Some Followers of Domenico Ghirlandajo. New York, 1976, p. 146, mentions the predella as an example of Domenico Ghirlandaio's style of small-scale painting.

    Denys Sutton. "Robert Langton Douglas, Part III, XIV: Agent for the Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 109 (June 1979), pp. 421, 423, attributes the panels to Domenico Ghirlandaio.

    Jean K. Cadogan. Domenico Ghirlandaio: Artist and Artisan. New Haven, 2000, pp. 250–52, no. 28, fig. 236, attributes the predella to Domenico Ghirlandaio, following Fahy [see Ref. 1976], and dates the altarpiece to about 1479–80.

  • Notes

    This panel comes from the predella of the altarpiece commissioned from Domenico Ghirlandaio by the Gesuati for their church of San Giusto alle Mura. The predella also included the Marriage of the Virgin (MMA 13.119.1), Tobias and the Angel (MMA 13.119.3), the Fall of the Rebel Angels (Detroit Institute of Arts), and Saint Justus Distributing Bread (National Gallery, London). The main panel (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence) represents the Madonna and Child Enthroned with the Archangel Michael, Saints Justus and Zenobius, and the Archangel Raphael [see Ref. Gronau 1927 for reconstruction].

    The altarpiece is mentioned in a contract of June 6, 1486 commissioning Antonio di Sangallo to copy the design of its frame for another work by Ghirlandaio now in the Galleria dello Spedale degli Innocenti, Florence [see Ref. Küppers 1916 and Cadogan 2000].