The classical scholar and poet Angelo Ambrogini, known as Poliziano, died on 24 September 1494 at the age of 40. His nickname derived from the Latin name for his hometown of Montepulciano (Mons Politianus). Known for his translations of ancient texts and original poetry, Poliziano served as private secretary to Lorenzo de’Medici (d. 1492) and tutor to his children. He appears alongside the young Giuliano, Piero, and Giovanni in a fresco painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the Sassetti Chapel at Santa Trinita, Florence. It depicts the Confirmation of the Franciscan Rule, which was granted by Pope Honorius III in 1223 in Rome, as if it had happened in Florence with late fifteenth-century luminaries in attendance, including Lorenzo and Poliziano.
Ghirlandaio honored Poliziano again in a fresco painted for another prominent family’s chapel, the Tornabuoni chapel at Santa Maria Novella. Ghirlandaio included the humanist among the crowd gathered to witness Zachariah’s message from the Angel Gabriel that he would have a son. The inscription on the arched gate at the right of the composition has been attributed to Poliziano, who was Medici court poet at the time: “In the year 1490, when the most beautiful of cities, owing to its wealth, its conquests, its undertakings, and buildings, enjoyed prosperity and peace” (translation from Steffi Roettgen, Italian Frescoes: The Flowering of the Renaissance 1470-1510, p. 174.)
Sassetti included members of the Medici family and entourage in his chapel’s decoration as a way to honor his employer Lorenzo; the Tornabuoni included numerous family members, friends, and luminaries in the crowds that witness the religious events displayed on their chapel’s walls as a reflection of their social status and importance. That Poliziano was included in both images attests to his his reputation and esteem during his short but productive life.
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Confirmation of Franciscan Rule, fresco, ca. 1485, detail showing Angelo Poliziano and Giuliano di Lorenzo de’Medici, Sassetti Chapel, Santa Trinita, Florence
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Confirmation of Franciscan Rule, fresco, ca. 1485, Sassetti Chapel, Santa Trinita, Florence
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Apparition to Zechariah, fresco, ca. 1490, detail showing Marsilio Ficino, Cristoforo Landino, Demetrius the Greek, and Angelo Poliziano (according to Vasari), Tornabuoni Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Apparition to Zechariah, fresco, ca. 1490, Tornabuoni Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence