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Fra Bartolomeo


Biography and information

Fra Bartolomeo also called Bartolomeo della Porta or Baccio della Porta (Italian: Fra Bartolommeo or Bartolomeo; March 28, 1472, Florence - October 31, 1517, ibid.) - an artist, an outstanding representative of the High Renaissance at the beginning of the XVI century.

Features of the work of Fra Bartolomeo. In his first works, the influence Piero di Cosimo, andDomenico Ghirlandaio and Filippino Lippi. After a break between 1500 and 1503, Fra Bartolomeo seemed to change his style, taking over fromRaphael transmission of light and its movement through objects.

Fra Bartolomeo’s figures are usually small and draped. Critics accused the artist of inability to portray the human body and create large-scale works. To prove otherwise, he wrote a magnificent image of the Apostle Mark, which is considered his masterpiece, as well as the nude of St. Sebastian. The latter was so expressive that she was removed from the chapel of the monastery, where she was, so as not to embarrass the parishioners.

The compositions of Fra Bartolomeo are distinguished by a combination of color and shade, richness and subtlety of coloring, as well as wonderful drapery of figures. Bartolomeo was the first to use articulated mannequins to create compositions.

Famous works of Fra Bartolomeo. "Portrait of Girolamo Savonarola", "The Vision of St. Bernard", “Christ with the Four Evangelists”, “The Holy Family with the Baby John the Baptist”, “God the Father with Saints Catherine of Siena and Mary Magdalene”.

Baccio della Porta

As is the case with many old masters, the biography of Fra Bartolomeo abounds with “white spots”. Controversial moments begin with the date of his birth. So, the first biographer of the painterGiorgio Vasari in his Biographies, he indicates that he was born in 1475 in the city of Savignano. However, more recent studies have discovered that this happened three years earlier in Suffignano, a village near Florence.

At the birth of the future artist, they named Bartolomeo di Paolo del Fattorino, but most often called Baccio della Porta. Baccio is the diminutive Tuscan word for Bartolomeo, and della Porta refers to the gates of San Pierre Gattolino (Porta a San Pier Gattolino), near which he lived since about six years.

Baccio supposed to be an apprentice Cosimo RosselliBeing 11-12 years old - at that time boys entered school around this age. Most likely, this happened after November 1482, when Rosselli returned from Rome, where he worked on the Sistine Chapel at the invitation of Pope Sixtus IV.

Some art historians believe that young Baccio was influenced by artists such as Andrea del Verrocchio,Lorenzo di Credi and Leonardo da Vinci. Numerous comparisons of the works of the future monk and these painters prove this, but there is no evidence that della Porta studied with any of them. Vasari writes that Baccio studied the works of Leonardo with great interest after he completed his apprenticeship with Rosselli.


It was probably in the Rosselli workshop that Bartolomeo made friends withMariotto Albertinelli and three times in the next 23 years formed a creative union with him. Vasari describes Albertinelli as a rebellious hedonist, and Bartolomeo as a milder person. But judging by how many times they became partners in more than two decades, their personalities complemented each other. The artists organized the first joint studio after Baccio left Rosselli - in 1490 or a little later.

The collaboration of Bartolomeo and Albertinelli was interrupted in 1493. At the same time, della Porta met fra Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican monk who, two years earlier, had become the prior of the monastery of San Marco. In 1494, the Florentine ruler Piero di Lorenzo Medici was expelled from the city, and Baccio and Albertinelli resumed joint work.

The Savonarola sermons influenced Baccio's work. The monk condemned the "pagan" themes, asking, "Is it right for Christian spouses to get acquainted with Venus before the Mother of God, or with Mars earlier than with the saints?" Savonarola also opposed the inclusion of secular characters in religious works, such as donors, as was customary in the past. He was attacked by artists representing biblical heroes as ordinary men and women. And the priest considered the images of saints, such as Mary or Elizabeth, in luxurious modern clothes to be especially offensive - according to him, it was a demonstration of vanity in the church.

Vasari reports that under the influence of these sermons, Baccio, Lorenzo di Credi and many other painters burned many of their drawings and nude paintings.

Fra Bartolomeo

April 8, 1498 the monastery of San Marco was attacked by opponents of Savonarola, calling themselves arrabiati ("angry"). Among the five hundred supporters of Prior who locked themselves with their idol in San Marco was Baccio. According to Vasari, it was during this attack that the artist vowed that if he survived, he would become a monk. Savonarola was defeated and burned as a heretic on May 23, 1498, and della Porta received tonsure under the name of brother (fra) Bartolomeo in the monastery of San Domenico in Prato.

However, this happened only two years after the events in San Marco, and this casts doubt on whether the attack was a real impetus to Baccio’s decision to become a monk. Vasari also writes that Fra Bartolomeo's friends were deeply saddened not only by the loss of his partnership, but also by the fact that he decided to stop writing. And although there is nothing to refute the words of the biographer, they are questioned. Most likely, Fra Bartolomeo’s refusal of painting was part of his vows in the early years of obedience. In November 1504, he returned to San Marco, the church where he first met Savonarola.


By that time, Fra Bartolomeo resumed painting, and Rafael arrived in Florence. According to Vasari, both artists became close: Rafael helped the monk with the principles of perspective, and he responds by sharing his experience in harmonizing colors. Scientists agree that the painters were familiar with each other's work, but disagree about who had a greater influence on the other. Vasari writes that Raphael sought to learn from a monk and therefore "was always in his company."

It is believed that at the end of 1508, Albertinelli and Fra Bartolomeo for the third time renewed the partnership, which lasted until 1513. Then, according to Vasari, Bartolomeo left Florence for Rome. Apparently, the glory of his work inspired him to travel.Michelangelo and Raphael. He immediately received two orders from Prior Fra Mariano, but the atmosphere of Rome overwhelmed the monk. According to Vasari, surrounded by so many impressive works of art - both ancient and modern - Bartolomeo lost faith in his abilities. He decided to return to Florence, leaving Raphael one of the orders of Fra Mariano.

Medici, Francis and Alfonso d'Este

Vasari notes that upon arrival in Florence, Fra Bartolomeo worked for a number of the most influential families in the city, including the Medici, Capponi and Soderini. However, the biographer misses two important events of the last stage of his life. In 1515, King Francis I of France invited a monk to Paris, which testifies to his high status as a Renaissance artist. In addition, according to documents, in 1516 Fra Bartolomeo was in Ferrara, where he wrote The Triumph of Venus on the walls of the Alabaster Wardrobe commissioned by Alfonso d'Este. Other artists hired to decorate this room included Rafael and Giovanni Bellini.

Fra Bartolomeo died on October 31, 1517, and never finished painting. Alfonso d'Este hired none other than to complete the muralTitian - and this demonstrates how highly he appreciated the work of the monk.

Author: Vlad Maslov
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