Francesco Sassetti and His Son Teodoro, ca. 1488
Domenico Ghirlandaio (Italian, Florentine, 1448/9–1494)
Tempera on panel; Overall 33 1/4 x 25 1/8 in. (84.5 x 63.8 cm), painted surface 29 7/8 x 20 7/8 in. (75.9 x 53 cm)
Inscribed: FRAN[CISCVS] SAXETTVS TEODORVSQVE. F[ILIVS]
The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.7)
Portrayed in this early portrait of a father and son is Francesco Sassetti (1421–1490), who served as a general manager of the Medici banking empire, and one of his five sons (he also had five daughters). The latter—as suggested by the inscription—may be his firstborn son, Teodoro (1460–1479), or, more likely, the boy's namesake, Teodoro II, born the year of his brother's death. Sassetti would have been in his late sixties by then, although he looks younger in the painting (the artist's original conception, as revealed by infrared reflectology in underdrawing beneath the painting's surface, shows somewhat more pronounced crow's feet and jowls).
In the last years of Sassetti's life, the fortunes of the Medici banks declined precipitously, and in 1488 he resolved to voyage to Lyons and try to save what he could at the branch there. He prepared a document for his sons in case of his death, which instructed them to divide the estate and care for the whole family. It is possible that he left this impressive painting behind as a reminder of his wishes as regarding even the youngest son.