Showing posts with label Savignano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Savignano. Show all posts

28 March 2017

Fra Bartolommeo - Renaissance great

Friar rated equal of Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo

Bartolommeo's God the Father with SS Catherine of Siena and Mary Magdalene can be seen at Villa Guinigi in Lucca
Bartolommeo's God the Father with SS
Catherine of Siena and Mary Magdalene

can be seen at Villa Guinigi in Lucca
Fra Bartolommeo, the Renaissance artist recognised as one of the greatest religious painters, was born on this day in 1472 in Savignano di Vaiano, in Tuscany.

Also known as Baccio della Porta, a nickname he acquired because when he lived in Florence his lodgings were near what is now the Porta Romana, Bartolommeo created works that chart the development of artistic styles and fashion in Florence, from the earthly realism of the 15th century to the grandeur of High Renaissance in the 16th century.

His most famous works include Annunciation, Vision of St Bernard, Madonna and Child with Saints, the Holy Family, the Mystic Marriage of St Catherine, God the Father with SS Catherine of Siena and Mary Magdalene and Madonna della Misericordia.

Bartolommeo always prepared for any painting by making sketches, more than 1,000 in total over the years he was active.  Around 500 of them were discovered at the convent of St Catherine of Siena in Florence in 1722, where nuns were unaware of their significance.

Vision of St Bernard with SS Benedict and John the Evangelist, housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Vision of St Bernard with SS Benedict and John the
, housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
He is also remembered for his striking profile portrait of Fra Girolamo Savonarola, the fanatical priest under whose influence he came in the 1490s.  He came to believe the message that Savonarola preached, that much of the art and literature of the Renaissance was sinful and that the sole purpose of painting should be to illustrate the lessons of the bible.

Consequently, he threw many of his own early paintings, particularly those which contained nudity or other sensual images, on Savonarola's famous bonfires.  When Savonarola was arrested, hung and burned at the stake in 1498, Bartolommeo gave up painting and entered the friary of San Domenico in Prato as a novice.

He entered the convent of San Marco in Florence in 1500 and was persuaded to return to painting in 1504 when his superior asked him to do so for the benefit of the order, who sold artworks to raise money.  He became head of the monastery workshop, a position occupied some 50 years earlier by another great Renaissance artist, Fra Angelico.

Before taking orders, Bartolommeo, the son of a mule driver, had been an apprentice in the Florence workshop of Cosimo Rosselli.  He set up a studio with another Florentine painter, Mariotto Albertinelli and soon came to be considered one of the greatest talents of his generation, his works standing comparison with those of Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci.

Fra Bartolommeo's portrait of Fra Girolamo Savonarola is in the San Marco museum
Fra Bartolommeo's portrait of Fra Girolamo
Savonarola is in the San Marco museum
Savonarola's influence changed the direction of Bartolommeo's career. If he had not entered Holy Orders, it is likely he would have become an even more famous name.  Where Raphael and Michelangelo went to Rome to work at the Vatican, he stayed behind in Florence.

After resuming his career he nonetheless made an indelible mark on the history of art.  Following the completion of his Vision of St. Bernard in 1507 for a chapel in the Badia Fiorentina, he befriended Raphael when the younger artist visited Florence and they were said to have influenced each other.  When Bartolommeo eventually did travel to Rome in 1513, Raphael completed two unfinished pictures in Florence.

In the meantime, Bartolommeo had spent time in Venice, where he painted a Holy Father, St. Mary Magdalene and St. Catherine of Siena for the Dominicans of San Pietro Martire in Murano. As the Dominicans failed to pay for the work, he took it back to Lucca, where it can be seen now.

Also in Lucca, he painted an altarpiece Madonna and Child with Saints for the local cathedral and was then commissioned to paint an altarpiece for the Sala del Consiglio of Florence, now in the Museum of San Marco.

In Rome, he painted a Peter and Paul, now in the Pinacoteca Vaticana, returning to Florence to execute his St. Mark Evangelist for the Palazzo Pitti in Florence and the frescoes in the Dominican convent of Pian di Mugnone, near Fiesole, just outside Florence. His last work is fresco of Noli me tangere also in Pian di Mugnone.

Fra Bartolommeo died in 1517 at the age of 44. The painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari recorded that he suffered a “violent fever” after “having eaten some figs.” But it is thought more likely that he died of malaria.

The Palazzo Pretorio in Prato
The Palazzo Pretorio in Prato
Travel tip:

The city of Prato is just half an hour from Florence yet is almost Tuscany's forgotten gem.  It has a commercial heritage founded on the textile industry and its growth in the 19th century earned it the nickname the "Manchester of Tuscany". Prato is the home of the Datini archives, a significant collection of late medieval documents concerning economic and trade history, produced between 1363 and 1410, yet also has many artistic treasures, including frescoes by Filippo Lippi, Paolo Uccello and Agnolo Gaddi inside its Duomo and the external pulpit by Michelozzo and Donatello. The Palazzo Pretorio is a building of great beauty, situated in the pretty Piazza del Comune, and there are the ruins of the castle built for the medieval emperor and King of Sicily Frederick II.

Check TripAdvisor's guide to Prato hotels

The Church of San Marco in Florence
The Church of San Marco in Florence
Travel tip:

The San Marco religious complex in Florence comprises a church and a convent. During the 15th century, the convent was home to both the painter Fra Angelico as well as the preacher Savonarola.  The convent was stripped from the Dominicans in 1808, during the Napoleonic Wars, and again in 1866, when it became a possession of the state.  Until recently, it still housed a community of Dominican friars, but is now home to the Museo Nazionale di San Marco, where Fra Bartolommeo's portrait of Savonarola is on display.  Also housed at the convent is a famous collection of manuscripts in a library built by Michelozzo.

More reading:

What made Michelangelo the greatest of all the great artists

The precocious genius of Raphael

Artist and inventor - the extraordinary talents of Leonardo da Vinci

Also on this day:

(Picture credits: Palazzo Pretorio by Massimilianogalardi; Church of San Marco by Sailko; both via Wikimedia Commons)