Title: Zechariah Writes Down the Name of his Son
Artist: Domenico Ghirlandaio
Location: Cappella Tornabuoni,
Luke 1:59-80 chronicles that on the eighth day the child was to be circumcised, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John." They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name." Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John." Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of
Ghirlandaio has made this composition animated by the unusual device of placing the most important group of people, who are standing around Zechariah, off centre. This means that the baby John is in the centre directly under the middle pilaster in front of a magnificent loggia which opens out onto an extensive landscape. Zechariah, whose spirit is undaunted although he is still mute, expresses amazement that a son has been born to him. While he is asked what name to give his son, he writes on his knees 'His name will be John' - all the while staring at his son, who is held by a woman kneeling reverently before him. Many of the other figures, who seem to be wondering whether this could be true or not, watch in astonishment.
Ghirlandaio (b. 1449, Firenze, d. 1494,