Fra BartolommeoBartolommeo di Domenico di Paolo di Jacopo, known before he joined the Dominican Order as Baccio della Porta (from the family house at the Porta San Pier Gattolini, now Porta Romana, at Florence). According to new evidence published in 1996, he was born on 21 August 1473 (not 28 March 1472 as previously supposed). His father was a muleteer and carter. By 1485 he was apprenticed to Cosimo Rosselli. Rosselli, though head of a substantial workshop, was a second-rate painter, and Fra Bartolommeo is likely to have learnt more from Piero di Cosimo, Rosselli’s senior assistant. He may also have been connected with the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio, whose altarpiece at Rimini he may have helped to complete.
As a young painter, he shared a workshop at his family home with Mariotto Albertinelli (1474-1515), another former pupil of Rosselli and a life-long friend. During the 1490s he fell under the influence of the preaching of Savonarola, and is said to have burnt his nude studies on the ‘bonfire of the vanities’ and vowed to become a monk after witnessing the storming of San Marco and Savonarola’s arrest. On 26 July 1500 he entered the monastery of San Domenico at Prato as a novice, taking his vows a year later and returning to Florence as Fra Bartolommeo di San Marco. He gave up painting for a time, but had started again by 1504 as head of the San Marco workshop, a position once held by Fra Angelico. After a brief visit to Venice in the spring of 1508, when he studied the great altarpieces of Giovanni Bellini, he took on Albertinelli as an equal partner in the monastery workshop. The allocation of pictures from the workshop between the two artists is sometimes difficult. The partnership was dissolved in 1513, when Albertinelli briefly gave up painting to run two taverns. Fra Bartolommeo briefly visited Rome in 1513-14, and his late works were influenced by Raphael’s and Michelangelo’s Vatican frescoes. In 1516-17 he attracted the patronage of Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara; a picture of the Worship of Venus for Alfonso’s camerino was never finished, and the commission was eventually taken over by Titian. Because of poor health, Fra Bartolommeo increasingly spent time outside Florence at the Dominican convent of La Maddalena at Le Caldine, where he probably painted his last works. He died on 31 October 1517, after eating figs according to Vasari, and was buried in San Marco. After his death, the San Marco workshop was continued by Fra Paolino da Pistoia (1488-1547), but soon dwindled into insignificance.
Fra Bartolommeo’s early works are still rooted in the late Quattrocento, and show the influence of Piero di Cosimo and Perugino as well as Leonardo’s earlier Florentine works. It was only in the second decade of the sixteenth century, following his visits to Venice and Rome, that his High Renaissance style became fully evolved. His great altarpieces of this mature period have an austere and monumental grandeur in keeping with the Savonarolan ideals of his patrons. He was a prolific draughtsman, and almost 900 sheets of drawings by him survive (more than by any other High Renaissance artist apart from Leonardo). As well as preparatory compositional and figure studies for paintings, there are more than fifty sheets of exquisite pen and ink sketches of landscapes, which are among the earliest landscape drawings in Italian art.
Saint Jerome in the Desert. Canvas on wood, 42 x 28.
The saint kneels in penitence before a crucifix attached to a tree. His lion appears behind the tree, crouching on the bank of a stream. A monastery is just visible at the top of the precipitous crag on the right. This little panel was acquired in Italy for the Berlin Museum in 1841-42 by Waagen, who ascribed it to Timoteo Viti. Later given to Lo Spagna, it has been attributed to Fra Bartolommeo since 1931 (following a suggestion by Roberto Longhi).
Another, perhaps superior, version was formerly in the Benson collection, London. It is almost identical in size and composition, but was painted directly on panel rather than on canvas laid on wood. (Still in private hands, it was sold at Sotheby's, New York, in 2012 for $4.9 million.) A panel of St Jerome of approximately this size (‘about two terzi high’), belonging to Fra Girolamo de’ Rossi, a former prior of San Marco, was included in an inventory of Fra Bartolommeo’s pictures drawn up at the monastery in December 1516 by Fra Bartolommeo Cavalcanti.
*‘Ferry Carondelet Altarpiece’. Wood, 260 x 230.
The Madonna is borne on clouds by boy angels. St Sebastian (naked and pierced with arrows) and St Stephen (holding a martyr's palm and with stones embedded in his skull) stand on the left. St Bernard (in a white Cistercian habit) and St Anthony Abbot (with tau-shaped staff and bell) stand on the right. St John the Baptist, kneeling on the left, points across to the donor, Ferry Carondelet. An open doorway behind offers a view of a river landscape with naked figures bathing. Ferry Carondelet, son of the famous Jean Carondelet, Chancellor to the Emperor Maximilian, was made Archdeacon of Besançon in 1504. He commissioned the altarpiece from Fra Bartolommeo and Mariotto Albertinelli in May-June 1511, when he was in Rome as Maximilian’s ambassador to the Papal Court. (It was at this time, too, that Sebastiano del Piombo painted the splendid portrait of Ferry Carondelet in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.) The altarpiece was finished by the end of 1512. It was originally placed in the Carondelet Chapel in Saint-Étienne at Besançon. In 1669, when Saint-Étienne was threatened with demolition during the construction of the citadel, the altarpiece was moved to the cathedral of Saint-Jean, where it remains today. It has been described as 'Fra Bartolommeo's unchallengeable masterpiece ... one of the greatest works of the High Renaissance' (John Shearman in the February 1966 Burlington Magazine).
The picture was was originally topped by a semi-circular Coronation of the Virgin, which was damaged in 1729, when the bell tower collapsed and the chapel containing the altarpiece was destroyed. Three fragments from the Coronation are now at Stuttgart. They are usually attributed to Albertinelli. Several preparatory drawings for the altarpiece are preserved in the Boymans Museum, Rotterdam. There are two fine small copies of the picture – one on wood (41 x 38) in the Musée Condé at Chantilly and the other on copper (48 x 38) at the John Soane's Museum in London – in which the kneeling donor is replaced by Mary Magdalene.
Chicago. Art Institute.
Nativity. Wood, 34 x 25.
The landscape may represent a specific view and have been painted from a sketch made on the spot. The sapling growing from the stones directly above the Christ Child symbolises the Resurrection. This little panel was discovered only fairly recently: formerly in a French private collection, it was sold at Christie's in 2001 for £1.65 million and subsequently acquired by the Chicago Institute in 2005 from Haboldt & Co. of Paris. It has been plausibly identified with the 'small painting of the Nativity of Our Lord' recorded in an entry, dated 16 April 1507, in a ledger of the San Marco monastery. The entry says that the painting was bought from Fra Bartolommeo by Domenico Perini for 30 large gold florins. Perini had already bought a Noli me Tangere a year earlier, and both pictures were sent to France. (The Noli me Tangere is now in the Louvre.) There is a rather similar (but considerably bigger) Nativity by Fra Bartolommeo in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum at Madrid.
Columbia (South Carolina). Museum of Art.
Madonna and Child with Saints and Angels. Wood, 117 in dia.
On the right, the infant St John offers a pomegranate to the Christ Child; on the left St Francis kneels in adoration between two angels. The design of this tondo is certainly Fra Bartolommeo’s, and the execution has been ascribed either to Fra Bartolommeo himself or to Albertinelli. Once in the hands of Charles Fairfax Murray in London; acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1931, and exhibited at Columbia since 1954.
Fiesole. San Francesco.
Saint Sebastian with an Angel (copy). Wood, 145 x 86.
The saint, pierced by arrows, steps out of an arched niche. Apart from a semi-transparent loincloth, he is completely naked. He reaches up to take a martyr's palm from a descending angel. The picture has been identified as a copy of the Saint Sebastian painted by Fra Bartolommeo for the church of San Marco. According to Vasari, Fra Bartolommeo's picture was removed from the church to the chapter house 'after the friars had found women in confession who looking at it had sinned through the captivating and sensuous resemblance of a living figure given to it by Fra Bartolommeo's talent'. The picture was bought for a mere twenty gold florins in 1529 by one Tommaso Sartini, a Florentine merchant in Lyon, who subsequently sold it to Francis I of France for the exorbitant sum of three hundred gold scudi. The original painting is presumed lost. The Saint Sebastian in the church at Fiesole was identified as a faithful (but reduced) copy in 1974 (by Janet Cox-Rearick in Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen in Florenz). It has been ascribed to the minor sixteenth-century Lucchese painter Ezechia da Vezzano (called Zacchia il Vecchio). (It has now been moved to the convent's chaper house, which is difficult to visit.)
*Vision of St Bernard. Wood, 213 x 219.
The subject of the Virgin appearing to St Bernard was popular in Florence and there are celebrated earlier versions of it by Filippino Lippi (Florentine Badia) and Perugino (now in Munich). The Virgin enters on a cloud supported by angels and cherubs. St Bernard, in the white habit of the Cistercian Order, kneels in profile at a desk, St Benedict (or Anthony Abbot?) and St John the Evangelist behind him. The idea of the little picture-within-a-picture of the Crucifixion (bottom centre, with a book leaning against it) is probably taken from Fra Angelico’s San Marco Altarpiece. On the hill to the right are tiny scenes of St Francis receiving the Stigmata and the Meeting of St Francis and St Dominic. Commissioned on 18 November 1504 by Bernardo del Bianco for his newly built chapel in the Badia at Florence. The chapel (first on the right of the nave) was designed by Benedetto da Rovezzano and contained a macigno (grey sandstone) altar frame carved by Rovezzano, tin-glazed terracotta decoration by Benedetto Buglioni and a fresco by Fra Bartolommeo above his picture. A prolonged dispute arose over the price of the altarpiece, and it was not until 17 July 1507 that agreement was reached on the sum of 100 florins and the picture was delivered. It was transferred to the sacristy in 1627 when the chapel was demolished, removed to the Accademia in 1810, and transferred to the Uffizi in 1945. The left-hand side, in particular, was damaged in an early attempt at cleaning (perhaps with caustic soda). Restored in 1989-90.
*Small Diptych. Each panel, 10 x 9.
On the inside the Nativity and Circumcision; on the outside the Virgin and Angel Annunciate in grisaille (imitating the Netherlandish technique). According to Vasari, who saw them in Duke Cosimo’s study, the two tiny panels were the inner doors of a tabernacle commissioned by the Florentine merchant Piero del Pugliese to hold a marble relief by Donatello of the Virgin. The panels were painted around 1498 (the year of Pugliese’s death), and are among Fra Bartolommeo’s earliest certain works. They were separated from the marble relief at the end of the sixteenth century. The relief was once thought to be a Madonna by Donatello in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts but has been identified more recently with the little Dudley Madonna in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Portia. Wood, 108 x 50.
Portia (Porcia Catonis), the daughter of Cato and wife of Brutus, was considered a paragon of loyalty and courage. The object in the bottom right corner of the picture is a heap of burning cinders. (When Portia learnt of her husband's death, she is supposed to have committed suicide by swallowing hot coals.) The true worth of this panel has been recognised only fairly recently. Described either as St Agnes or the Virgin Annunciate and ascribed to the School of Lorenzo di Credi or Franciabigio, it was from 1925 to 1964 on loan to the Italian Embassy in Washington. It then spent almost thirty years in the Instituto Centro del Restauro in Rome. There is a companion panel of Minerva in the Louvre. They probably formed part of the decoration of some Florentine palazzo, and are attributed to Fra Bartolommeo as very early works (around 1490-95).
*Mystical Marriage of St Catherine. Wood, 351 x 267.
St Catherine of Siena and St Catherine of Alexandria kneel at the sides of the throne (Catherine of Siena receiving the ring from the Christ Child); the saint in armour holding a standard has been variously identified as George (Vasari), Michael, Victor or Maurice; also on the left are SS. Paul, Peter and Stephen. Bartholomew, Francis (or Thomas), Dominic, and Peter Martyr are among the saints on the right (the others are difficult to identify). The grandest of Fra Bartolommeo’s Sacre Conversazioni. It was painted for the altar of St Catherine in the church of San Marco to replace a picture of the same subject (now in the Louvre) which was presented by the Florentine government to the French ambassador Jacques Hurault. Signed and dated 1512. It was removed in 1690 to the private apartments of Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici in the Pitti Palace. Transferred to the Uffizi in 1919 and to the Accademia in 1951, but returned to the Pitti Palace after restoration in 1990-95. Vasari says that Fra Bartolommeo used lamp black and burnt ivory to imitate the shadows of Leonardo and this caused the picture to darken. However, cleaning has restored much of the original richness of the colouring.
*Lamentation over the Dead Christ. Wood, 158 x 199.
The picture, which has been cut down by around a third at the top, was originally an altarpiece in the convent of San Gallo, just outside Florence. It is possibly the picture of this subject commissioned on 25 January 1511 from Mariotto Albertinelli (then in partnership with Fra Bartolommeo) for the high altar of the Certosa di Pavia. If so, it was never delivered. Vasari says that it was finished by Giuliano Bugiardini, who added the figures of St Peter and St Paul, but the execution appears to be wholly Fra Bartolommeo’s. When the convent of San Gallo was demolished during the siege of 1530, the picture was moved to the high altar of San Jacopo tra’ Fossi. After its acquisition in 1619 by Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici, brother of Duke Ferdinand II, it was cut down and the background was covered in dark paint. After the cardinal's death, the picture was transferred in 1667 from his residence at the Casino di San Marco to the Pitti Palace. The landscape (with the hill of Golgotha in the right distance) and the figures of St Peter and St Paul (cut off at face level) were uncovered in a restoration of 1986-88.
Saint Mark. Canvas (transferred from panel), 352 x 212.
This gigantic figure of the saint was painted after Fra Bartolommeo’s visit to Rome in 1513-14, and was evidently inspired by Michelangelo’s figures of prophets in the Sistine Chapel. Painted for the choir wall of the church of San Marco, together with a Saint Sebastian. It was installed in April 1515. The Saint Sebastian (whose nudity is said to have offended the Dominican friars) was sold in 1529 for 300 ducats to Tommaso Sartini, a Florentine merchant in Lyons, was then acquired by King Francis I of France, and is now lost. (There is an unattributed copy in the church of San Francesco at Fiesole and a variant attributed to Bugiardini in the New Orleans Museum.) The Saint Mark was acquired from the choir of San Marco in 1692 (after three years of negotiation) by Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici, who gave the monks a copy by Antonio Franchi in its place. Taken to Paris in 1799; it seems to have suffered water damage during the journey, and was transferred from an arched panel to a rectangular canvas.
*Salvator Mundi. Canvas (transferred from panel), 282 x 204.
The Risen Christ, on a pedestal, holds a staff topped by an orb in his left hand and raises his right hand in benediction. The Four Evangelists stand at the sides with their Gospels: Matthew and John (behind) are on the left, and Mark and Luke (behind) are on the right. At the foot of the pedestal are two putti holding what Vasari describes as a globe of the world (actually a circular gold frame containing a landscape view and supporting a eucharistic chalice covered by a paten). Signed and dated 1516 on the step on the left. Commissioned by the Florentine banker Salvatore di Bartolommeo di Antonio Billi for his chapel in the church of Santissima Annunziata; he is said to have paid Fra Bartolommeo 100 gold ducats. The picture is inscribed SALVATOR MUNDI ('Saviour of the World'), a title that alludes to the patron's name. Two side panels, showing the prophets Isaiah and Job, are now in the Accademia. The triptych was fitted into a grand marble framework, below the organ, which still exists in the church.
After the Billi family line was extinguished, the altar was ceded to one Lorenzo de' Soldani, who sold the triptych (possibly in 1631) to Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici, who placed the panels in the Casino Mediceo (in the modern-day Via Cavour). The Salvator Mundi was substituted in the church by a copy attributed to Jacopo da Empoli. By 1728 it had been transferred to private apartments in the Pitti Palace, and enlarged to make a pendant to Raphael’s Madonna del Baldacchino. In 1799 it was taken to Paris, where it was transferred to canvas in 1806-7. Previously rather dark, restoration in 1996 revealed the rich, glowing colour.
To judge from the large number of surviving preparatory studies, Fra Bartolommeo had some difficulty deciding on the final composition. A drawing at the British Museum shows the Risen Christ flanked by pairs of youthful angels. Another drawing, also at the British Museum, shows Christ's right foot resting on a globe.
Holy Family. Wood, 102 x 90.
Recorded in the Pitti Palace since 1663. Fra Bartolommeo experimented a great deal with this pyramidal Leonardesque composition with the two children embracing: it also appears with variations in pictures in the Palazzo Corsini in Rome (in which the composition is reversed) and the National Gallery in London (the Madonna and two children alone), while perhaps the best version was formerly in the Cook collection at Richmond (auctioned at Christie’s in July 2009). Late: both the Corsini and ex-Cook pictures are signed and dated 1516.
Ecce Homo. Terracotta, 51 x 36.
Painted in a fresco technique on tile. It entered the Pitti Palace in 1666 with the inheritance of Carlo de’ Medici. Its earlier provenance is unrecorded; but it is similar in size and technique to a series of heads of saints from the Dominican convent of La Maddalena (now in the San Marco Museum).
Isaiah; Job. Wood, each 168 x 108.
Isaiah holds a stone tablet with a quotation from the Book of Isaiah: 'God is my saviour'. Job holds a scroll with a similar quotation from the Book of Job: 'He shall be my saviour'. The monumental forms of the two Old Testament Prophets recall Michelangelo's Prophets on the Sistine ceiling, which Fra Bartolommeo would have seen on his brief visit to Rome in 1514. The two pictures were the side panels of a large triptych painted in 1516 for the Billi Chapel in the Servite church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence. The main panel, representing Christ as Salvator Mundi, is in the Pitti Palace. The Billi Chapel was on the right of the nave of the church, beneath the organ. The three panels – the Salvator Mundi in the centre, the Job probably on the right and the Isaiah on the left – were framed in the classical marble altar, still in situ, executed by Piero di Jacopo Rosselli (a relative of Fra Bartolommeo’s master Cosimo Rosselli). After being taken with the Salvator Mundi to the Casino Mediceo and thence to the Pitti Palace, the Isaiah and Job were moved to the Uffizi in the early nineteenth century and transferred to the Accademia after the Second World War.
Florence. Museo di San Marco.
La Sala di Fra Bartolommeo.
*Last Judgement. Detached fresco, 357 x 374.
This fresco, now badly damaged, was the largest and most ambitious project of Fra Bartolommeo's early career. It was commissioned on 22 April 1499 by Gerozzo Dini, agent of the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. It was painted on the wall over the grave of Dini’s mother, Venna degli Agli, under the arcades of the Chiostro delle Ossa of the hospital. The work was abandoned by Fra Bartolommo in July 1500 when he entered the Dominican Order at Prato, and was completed by March 1501 by Mariotto Albertinelli, who added the portraits of the donor and his wife (now effaced), monks of Santa Maria Nuova, his assistant Giuliano Bugiardini, and his self-portrait. The friar looking down, to the right of Christ, was engraved by Vasari as a portrait of Fra Angelico.
The fresco suffered from exposure during its time in the cloister, and it was repainted in 1628. When the cloister was demolished in 1657, the fresco was moved – with the whole supporting wall – to a small courtyard next to the women’s hospital. It was acquired from the hospital by the Italian State in 1900, exhibited at first in the Uffizi and Accademia, and then transferred to the new San Marco Museum in 1924. It was restored in 1982-86 and transferred to a new support.
The upper part of the composition – with saints seated on clouds in segments of a semi-circle – was probably used by Raphael as a source for both his early fresco of the Trinity and Saints at San Severo in Perugia and his Disputa in the Vatican. It remains more legible than the now fragmentary lower part, executed by Albertinelli. The trouble that Fra Bartolommeo took with the composition is evident from the survival of more than sixty preliminary drawings – many in the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam. A meticulous study for Christ's drapery, executed in distemper on grey linen, is preserved in the British Museum.
*‘Pala della Signoria’ (or 'Pala del Gran Consiglio'). Wood, 465 x 308.
The Virgin is surrounded by saints, who appeal for the protection of the city of Florence. The saints include St Anne (behind the Virgin and Child), the infant John the Baptist (who reaches forward to touch the Christ Child's foot), Reparata and Zenobius (who kneel on the right), Antoninus of Florence (who stands on the right) and possibly Barnabas (who kneels on the left and turns his head towards the viewer). The picture is the underpainting in brown monochrome for an altarpiece, which was commissioned on 26 November 1510 by Piero Soderini, Gonfaloniere of the Republic, for the Sala del Consiglio Maggiore in the Palazzo Vecchio. The commission had originally been given to Filippino Lippi in 1491 but the picture had not been executed when Filippino died in 1504. Fra Bartolommeo was required to 'follow the designs stipulated in the agreement with Filippino', and the huge picture was to be inserted into an existing frame designed by Filippino and carved by Baccio d’Agnolo. After the return of the Medici in 1512, the Consiglio Maggiore was immediately abolished and the panel was left unfinished. In 1540, when the family of Duke Cosimo took up residence in the Palazzo Vecchio, it was acquired by Ottaviano de’ Medici and placed in his chapel in San Lorenzo (at the end of the right nave). It was transferred to the Pitti Palace in 1690, the Uffizi in 1774 and the San Marco Museum in 1924. To judge from the number of exploratory drawings that have survived, Fra Bartolommeo must have ignored the agreement to follow Filippino's designs. There are compositional studies for the whole picture at Lille (Palais des Beaux-Arts), New York (Morgan Library) and Los Angeles (Getty Museum). That at the Getty Museum is closest to the final solution.
Eight Heads. Terracotta, 44/53 x 32/40.
The subjects are SS. Catherine of Siena, Catherine of Alexandria, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Dominic, Thomas Aquinas and Anthony Abbot, and a bust of Christ. Painted in fresco on tile. They are thought to have been painted by Fra Bartolommeo and his pupils for the Dominican convent of La Maddalena at Le Caldine (Pian di Mugnone). They were probably embedded in walls. (A frescoed tile by Fra Bartolommeo, representing Ecce Homo, is still inserted in the wall of a corridor in the convent.) By 1701 the tiles were in the chapel of the Giovanato at San Marco. Taken to the Accademia in 1810 when the convent was closed, and transferred to the San Marco Museum in 1924.
Saint Vincent Ferrer. Wood, 130 x 116.
The panel, originally full-length, was placed over a door leading from the church of San Marco to the sacristy. The saint was shown pointing upwards to a small roundel (24 x 23) of Christ as Judge with Two Angels; this was formerly in the Casa Vasari at Arezzo and is now also in the San Marco Museum. The picture probably dates from 1511-14. According to Vasari, it started deteriorating immediately because it was painted before the sizing had properly dried. Transferred to the San Marco Museum from the Accademia in 1982, and restored in 1993-94.
Two Madonnas. Terracotta, 65 in dia.
These two rapidly executed tondi were framed together in the nineteenth century. They are first certainly mentioned only in 1810, when they were among the pictures removed from the suppressed convent of San Marco to the Accademia. Returned to San Marco in 1924.
Christ carrying the Cross. Canvas on wood, 52 x 35.
The picture – darkened and cut down at the sides – is dated 1514. Another of the works taken in 1810 from San Marco to the Accademia (where it was framed with the eight heads of saints in fresco). Fra Bartolommeo also painted a version in fresco at the Maddalena convent at Le Caldine (detached in 1959 and very ruined).
SS. Dominic and Francis Embracing. Detached fresco, 108 x 189.
This fresco – damaged by damp and now very pale in colour – was painted for a lunette over a door in the cloister of the Maddalena convent. It was detached in 1959.
*Portrait of Savonarola. Wood, 53 x 47.
The original Latin inscription describes Savonarola as a prophet sent by God. Girolamo Savonarola, fanatical Dominican theologian and preacher, was born in Ferrara in 1452, and entered the monastery of San Domenico in Bologna after a sudden conversion in 1475. As prior of San Marco from 1491, he attacked the Medici and the Pope from the pulpit and launched a crusade against sin, materialism and clerical corruption. After a period of powerful political influence, he was hanged and burnt at the stake as a heretic on 23 May 1498. This famous profile portrait is believed to be the one described by Vasari, which was in his day in the possession of Filippo di Averardo di Alamanno Salviati. There is no further record of the picture until 1840, when it was with the Dominican nuns of San Vincenzo at Prato. It was acquired in 1855 by Ermolao Rubieri, whose heirs sold it to the Italian State in 1926. Generally regarded as an early work, but views differ as to whether it is likely to have been painted when Savonarola was alive.
Savonarola as Peter Martyr. Wood, 52 x 40.
The friar is shown in profile, a sword cut in his head. The picture was once considered a school work (a variant of the other portrait of Savonarola in San Marco), but is now attributed to Fra Bartolommeo himself. It is generally regarded as later than the other portrait (possibly towards 1510), and therefore painted after Savonarola’s death. It was recorded in 1759 in a private chapel in the convent of San Marco, and is said to have come from the convent of La Maddalena in the Mugnone valley. Transferred to the Accademia in 1810 and thence to the San Marco Museum in 1924.
Meeting of Christ and the Pilgrims. Detached fresco, 103 x 116.
Painted in the lunette over a door leading to the Little Refectory of San Marco. It was taken down and moved to Savonarola’s cell in 1872. According to Vasari, one of the pilgrims (presumably the red-haired man in profile) is a portrait of Fra Niccolò della Magna (the German Nicholaus Schomberg) who became prior of San Marco in 1506.
Two Frescoes of the Madonna and Child.
The Madonna with the rounded top (119 x 90) is from the Maddalena convent, and is usually identified as one of three frescoes that Fra Bartolommo painted there on 10-15 July 1514. It was transferred to San Marco in 1867. The other fresco (112 x 82) is recorded in its present position in 1701, but may also have come from La Maddalena.
Five lunettes. Fresco, 56/61 x 113/118.
The lunettes over the doors represent the Beato Ambrogio Sansedoni (holding a model of the city of Siena) and four Dominican saints: Vincent Ferrer, pointing to a symbol of Christ as judge; Thomas Aquinas, with a book; Peter Martyr, with the wound in his head; and Dominic, holding a lily and bidding silence. The lunettes are not recorded until 1736. They have usually been regarded as works of Fra Bartolommeo’s last years (1514-17), but an earlier dating (1511-12) has recently been suggested. Restored in 1986-87.
Florence. San. Marco.
*Madonna and Six Saints ('La Pala Cambi'). Wood, 245 x 225.
The clearly identifiable saints are John the Baptist and Peter Martyr (standing on the left), Nicholas of Bari (standing on the right with three gold balls) and Mary Magdalene (kneeling on the right with her jar of ointment). The monk in a black habit standing on the right could be Benedict (or Dominic) and the female saint kneeling on the left with a crucifix could be Catherine (or Giustina), The words 'Orate Pro Pittore' ('Pray for the Painter') are inscribed in gold letters on the step of the Virgin's throne. The picture is the only altarpiece by Fra Bartolommeo still in its original position: the second altar right, dedicated to St Peter Martyr. Painted for Pietro Cambi (a politician and follower of Savonarola) for 130 ducats. Vasari says that it was painted shortly after the Mystical Marriage of St Catherine of 1512 (now in the Pitti Gallery), which stood on the opposite altar of the church; however he seems to have been mistaken, since it is mentioned in Albertini’s Memoriale of 1510. It has frequently been dated 1509 by modern critics.
Geneva. Galerie des Beaux Arts.
Annunciation. Two canvases, each 108 x 56.
The canvas of the Virgin is signed by both Fra Bartolommeo and Albertinelli and bears the mark of the San Marco workshop (a cross with a double ring); but Albertinelli’s style is dominant. Probably painted in 1511 for the Certosa di Pavia. The Annunciation and Fra Bartolommeo's famous Lamentation over the Dead Christ (Pitti Palace, Florence) may have been intended to form parts of the same altarpiece. The Lamentation was never delivered to the Certosa, and the Annunciation was framed with panels by Perugino (three of which are now in the National Gallery, London). Plundered by the French in Milan in 1796, and deposited in the church of Saint-Germain at Geneva in 1805.
Grenoble. Musée de Peinture et de Sculptures.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 85 x 63.
This Raphaelesque Madonna was attributed to Fra Bartolommeo in 1988 (by Marco Chiarini in Le Revenue du Louvre et des Musée de France). It has been dated around 1515-17, and is a virtual replica, on panel, of a fresco painted by the artist in 1514 for the convent of La Maddalena at Le Caldine and now in the San Marco Museum. Acquired by the French State in 1861 with the Campana collection and allotted to Grenoble in 1863. The picture has tended to be neglected because of its poor condition: previously quite dark, it has been recently cleaned. A head scarf was added to the Madonna in the nineteenth century.
Le Caldine (Pian di Mugnone, near Fiesole). Convent of La Maddalena.
La Maddalena was the hospice of the Dominican convent of San Marco. Over the right altar of the church (above a presepio with terracotta figures ascribed to Andrea della Robbia) is Fra Bartolommeo’s heavily restored frescoed lunette of the Annunciation (110 x 160), which was painted by October 1515. The large, and partly ruined, fresco of Noli me Tangere in the small garden chapel near the entrance is dated 1517, and was probably Fra Bartolommeo’s last work, painted shortly before his death that October. The inscription on the stone, where the Magdalen has placed her ointment jar, is from the Song of Songs ('I sought him whom my soul loveth').
A damaged Ecce Homo, painted on a terracotta tile, is embedded in a wall along a corridor on the ground floor. Other such frescoed tiles by Fra Bartolommeo were removed from the walls of the convent and are now at the San Marco Museum and Pitti Palace.
London. National Gallery.
Virgin adoring the Child with St Joseph. Wood, 138 x 105.
The subject, enormously popular among Florentine painters from the mid-fifteenth century, was inspired by St Bridget of Sweden's account of her vision of the Virgin adoring the Child. The small figure of the infant Baptist, dressed in camel's hair and holding a reed cross, is seen in the right middle distance. Behind him, there is a tiny genre scene of men on a ladder and scaffolding painting the front of a building. The picture is probably the 'bellissimo' painting of Our Lady by Fra Bartolommeo seen by Vasari in the house of Filippo di Averardo Salviati. It was acquired in Italy by Sir Richard Colt Hoare at the end of the eighteenth century, and remained with the Hoare family until 1883, when it was sold at Christie’s. Briefly in the possession of Sir J. C. Robinson, it was bought in 1885 by Ludwig Mond, who bequeathed his pictures to the National Gallery in 1924. The picture dates from around 1509-10. The cartoons for the Virgin and for the Child may have been reused for a picture, dated 1511 and possibly executed by Mariotto Albertinelli, in the Borghese Gallery, Rome. The Virgin's devotional pose, with hands crossed on her breast, is also repeated in a tondo in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan.
Madonna and Child and St John. Canvas (transferred from panel), 88 x 71.
The iconography of the Christ Child and infant St John embracing probably originated with a painting or design by Leonardo da Vinci. The distant town resembles that in Fra Bartolommeo's Virgin appearing to Saint Bernard (Uffizi). There are variants (which probably made use of the same cartoon but include the figures of St Joseph or St Elizabeth or both) in the Corsini Gallery at Rome, the Pitti Palace in Florence and, formerly, the Cook collection at Richmond. (The ex-Cook version, arguably the finest, was auctioned at Christie's in July 2009.) The National Gallery picture is damaged (probably as a result of its transfer to canvas), and views differ as to whether it is autograph or a studio work. Bought in 1900 from Cavaliere Nicola Landolfi of Rome, and said to have once belonged to the Duke of Lucca. Rarely exhibited.
Portrait of Costanza Caetani. Wood, 57 x 38.
Damaged by large cracks. The sitter, identified by the inscription as a member of the Medici family, was born in about 1469. She was married by 1489, and the flowers, jewels and dog in the portrait may refer to her betrothal. The picture was ascribed to Botticelli when first recorded in the nineteenth century in the castle of Castelfalfi (west of Florence), and was later given to Domenico or Davide Ghirlandaio or their workshop. The attribution to Fra Bartolommeo, as a youthful work, was made by Everett Fahy in the 1969 Art Bulletin. It was accepted in official catalogues for a time, but the portrait is currently classed by the National Gallery simply as a work in the 'style of Domenico Ghirlandaio'. The sitter’s pose is similar to that of Lorenzo di Credi’s so-called Caterina Sforza at Forlì. Bequeathed by George Salting in 1910.
Los Angeles. J. P. Getty Museum.
*Holy Family. Wood, 130 x 107.
Though often called the 'Rest on the Flight into Egypt', the picture represents the Holy Family resting on their return journey to the Holy Land and the (apocryphal) first meeting of the infant Christ and infant John the Baptist. Mary and Joseph are seated in soft evening light under a palm and a pomegranate tree. The little St John presents the Christ Child with a cross as symbol of his future sacrifice. A pomegranate, symbol of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, lies half eaten in the foreground. The Flight into Egypt is depicted in the right landscape. From the late seventeenth century, the picture was in the collection of the Salviati family at Florence. (On the strength of an inscription on the back, it has been identified with the Madonna by Fra Bartolommeo seen by Vasari in the house of Filippo di Averardo Salviati. However, that picture is probably rather the National Gallery's Adoration, which was also in the Salviati collection.) The picture dates from about 1509-10 and is exceptionally well preserved.
It was acquired in 1779 by George Nassau Clavering-Cowper, 3rd Earl Cowper, during the English aristocrat's thirty-year residence in Florence. After Cowper's death in 1789, his choice collection of paintings (assembled with the advice of the German painter Johan Zoffany and including two Raphael Madonnas now in Washington) was shipped to England and hung at the family seat at Panshanger in Hertfordshire. After the death in 1952 of Ethel Grenfell, Lady Desborough, without a male heir, Panshanger House was demolished. Fra Bartolommeo's Holy Family was inherited by Viscountess Gage, Lady Desborough's daughter, and hung in the Gage's manor house, Firle Place in East Sussex. It was bought by the Getty Museum in 1996 for £14 million.
Los Angeles. County Museum of Art.
Holy Family. Canvas, 151 x 91.
Recorded first by Crowe and Cavalcaselle (1864) in the Palazzo Panciatichi, Florence, as a work attributed to Fra Bartolommo. Later ascribed to Albertinelli (and illustrated as such in Venturi’s monumental Storia dell’Arte Italiana); but reattributed to Fra Bartolommeo on the occasion of the 1940 Cinquecento Toscano exhibition at Florence, and now accepted as an early work, close in style and date to the Volterra Annunciation of 1497. After the Panciatichi collection was dispersed, the picture probably came into the possession of the English painter and dealer Charles Fairfax Murray. It was acquired around 1925 by the famous dealer Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, and remained with his heirs until 1974.
Louisville. J. B. Speed Art Gallery.
Adoration of the Child. Wood, 15 x 9.
This tiny panel has been cut down and the edges are irregular. It probably formed a diptych with a Crucifixion once in the collection of Sir Anthony Sterling, London, and now in a private American collection. It first came to notice, already attributed to Fra Bartolommeo, when it was loaned by Ludwig Mond to the famous exhibition of Early Italian Art at the New Gallery, London, in 1893-94. It remained in the possession of Robert Mond during the first half of the twentieth century, was sold at Christie’s in 1965, and was acquired by the Speed Museum in 1976 from E. V. Thaw & Co. of New York.
Lucca. Museo Nazionale.
*God the Father adored by Saints. Canvas (transferred from panel), 365 x 232.
The vision of God in heaven is worshipped by Mary Magdalene and St Catherine of Siena kneeling below. The large open book God holds is inscribed with the Greek letters alpha and omega (referring to the Book of Revelation: 1, 8) and the scroll held by the cherub beneath God's foot proclaims that 'Divine love produces ecstasy' (a quotation attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite). A stretch of landscape between the kneeling saints shows a farmhouse beside a river spanned by an arched bridge. Dated 1509 (bottom left). The picture was commissioned by the Dominicans of San Pietro Martire at Murano in April 1508 when Fra Bartolommeo was in Venice. The monks intended to raise the money for it partly through the sale of a printed edition of St Catherine’s letters, and the book placed prominently in the foreground probably refers to the Aldine edition of the letters. Fra Bartolommeo received twenty-six ducats in advance and another three for colours. But the monks were unable to raise the balance of the price of 100 ducats for the finished picture, which was secured by Fra Bartolommeo’s friend Padre Sante Pagnini in 1513 for his convent of San Romano at Lucca. Transferred to the Pinacoteca in 1874. A pen-and-ink drawing of the farmhouse in the landscape is preserved at the Cleveland Museum of Art (Ohio).
*Madonna della Misericordia. Canvas, 392 x 268.
The Virgin, arms outstretched, looks upwards at the vision of Christ. Under her mantle, held up by two angels, a crowd of about forty worshippers take shelter. The Latin quotation on the tablet ('I have compassion on the multitude') is from Mark 8: 2. Signed and dated 1515. Commissioned by Fra Sebastiano Lambardi di Montecatani (whose initials and coat-of-arms appear on the pedestal) for a chapel he had built opposite the sacristy in the Dominican church of San Romano in Lucca. He is shown kneeling in profile, on the right in a red gown, under the protection of St Dominic. Preparatory studies for several of the figures (including exquisite drawings in red and black chalk for the heads of the young mother and elderly grandmother, lower right) are preserved in the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam. For the Virgin, Fra Bartolommeo apears to have adapted a pre-existing design for a figure of Victory holding a sword aloft.
Both pictures were restored in 2006-14.
Lucca. Cathedral. Cappella del Santuario.
*Madonna and Saints. Wood, 165 x 150.
The Virgin is enthroned between St Stephen (holding a martyr's palm and with stones embedded in his skull) and St John the Baptist (pointing to the Christ Child). Two boy angels hold the crown above her head; a third sits on the step of the throne playing a lute. The landscape is lit by the setting sun. Commissioned by the Operai of the Duomo and delivered in early October 1509. It was painted in the San Marco workshop and transported to Lucca. Albertinelli received almost half the profits from the picture; but it is signed by Fra Bartolommeo alone, and dated 1509. The influence of Fra Bartolommeo’s recent visit to Venice is suggested by the rich colouring and the Bellinesque lute-playing angel.
The picture is situated in the chapel at the end of the left nave. (The chapel is usually closed and the picture has to be viewed through a wrought-iron grille.)
Madrid. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
Holy Family. Wood, 62 x 47.
A Nativity scene, with a semi-circle of three angels in the sky, and the Annunciation to the Shepherds on the hill to the left, and the infant St John on the right being introduced to the Christ Child by the Virgin. The picture matches the description of a panel (‘about one braccio, in which is the Nativity and angels and country folk, valued at 50 ducats, given to Cardinal de’ Medici, today Pope’) included in the list of Fra Bartolommeo’s works drawn up at San Marco in 1516. A comparatively early work (1505-6?). In the early nineteenth century it was in the collection of the Duke of Lucca, and it was later in English private collections (Fairfax-Lucy at Charlecote Park until 1945 and then Philip Vos in Sussex). Acquired by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1955.
Milan. Museo Poldi Pezzoli.
Holy Family. Wood, 86/87 in dia.
Quite similar to the picture in the National Gallery, London; the figure of the Virgin, crossing her hands across her breast, is virtually identical. The cartoon is preserved in the Uffizi. The tondo was in the collection of the Risorgimento statesman and man of letters Emilio Visconti Venosta, and was given to the museum by his daughter-in-law, the Marquise Margherita Visconti Venosta, in 1973. Restored in 2002.
Madonna and Child Enthroned. Wood, 28 x 15.
This small arched panel (which had languished in storage as a copy after Lorenzo di Credi) was attributed to Fra Bartolommeo in 1966 by Everett Fahy in an article in the Burlington Magazine on the artist’s earliest works. The attribution was accepted by the 1976 and 1982 museum catalogues.
Munich. Alte Pinacoteca.
Adoration of the Child. Wood, 99 in dia.
Traditionally ascribed to Lorenzo di Credi. (It is almost a replica – in reverse and with the addition of the figure of St Joseph – of Credi’s tondo in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.) Along with a similar tondo in the Borghese Gallery at Rome, it was later ascribed to a ‘Pseudo Lorenzo di Credi’ (Venturi) and to Tommaso di Stefano (a pupil of Credi mentioned by Vasari), but is now regarded as a very early work of Fra Bartolommeo. First recorded in 1815 with Giovanni Metzger at Florence; acquired by the Alte Pinacoteca in 1836.
*Assumption of the Virgin. Canvas, 330 x 202.
The Virgin, flanked by boy angels playing a lute and viol, ascends to heaven on a bank of cloud. Her girdle has fallen onto the foot of her tomb, which has miraculously filled with lilies and roses. John the Baptist (pointing heavenwards) and St Catherine of Alexandria (with martyr's palm, books and spiked wheel) kneel at the sides. The picture, cursorily mentioned by Vasari, was painted for the church of Santa Maria in Castello at Prato. Signed and dated 1516. To judge by the number of other works also dated 1516, this was a remarkably busy time for Fra Bartolommeo, and the execution is sometimes ascribed largely or wholly to his studio (or to Fra Paolino). Acquired in Rome for the Bourbon collection in 1800.
An earlier altarpiece of the Assumption, painted by Fra Bartolommeo in 1508 for the Compagnia de' Contemplanti, was destroyed at Berlin in 1945.
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
Madonna and Child with St John. Wood, 58 x 44.
This exceptionally well-preserved picture is unrecorded before 1899, when it was sold by the Whitely family of Sandleford Priory, Newbury. It was acquired for the Metropolitan Museum in 1906 by Roger Fry during his brief spell there as Curator of Paintings. It was traditionally ascribed to Bugiardini (an attribution still accepted in the museum’s 1940 catalogue and in Freedberg’s 1961 High Renaissance Painting in Rome and Florence) and later given to Ridolfo Ghirlandaio (eg. in Berenson’s 1932-63 Lists). The attribution to Fra Bartolommeo, as a very early work, was first proposed only in 1966 (by Everett Fahy in an article in the Burlington Magazine), but is now generally accepted. The composition seems to have been inspired by Leonardo’s Benois Madonna in St Petersburg.
Portrait of a Man (Matteo Sassetti?). Wood, 40 x 30.
Along the top of the panel is the posthumous inscription: ‘MATTHAEUS SASS[ ]THANUS OBIT 1506’ ['Matteo Sass[...?] died 1506]. The sitter, who has been called 'Matteo Sassetti' or 'Matteo Sassettiano', has not been positively identified. The portrait is very Flemish in character and may have been modelled on one by Hans Memling. First recorded in a Christie’s sale in 1928 as by Bellini. Published by Lionello Venturi in Pantheon in 1929 as a work of Bastiano Mainardi, and later ascribed to Cosimo Rosselli (Berenson’s 1963 Lists). The attribution to Fra Bartolommeo, as an early work of the late 1490s, was made by Everett Fahy (1966) and has subsequently been fairly generally accepted. Bequeathed in 1982 with the Linsky collection. Somewhat overcleaned and abraded, particularly the face and hair.
*Mystical Marriage of St Catherine of Siena with Eight Saints. Wood, 257 x 218.
St Catherine of Siena is shown as a 'bride of Christ' on account of her name (Catherine of Alexandria being the original such 'bride'). She kneels to receive the ring from the Christ Child. St Peter (pointing to St Catherine and holding the keys to Heaven in his other hand), St Vincent Ferrer and St Stephen (with a stone embedded in his head) stand on the left. St Bartholomew (holding his flaying knife) is on the right with a female martyr (perhaps Catherine of Alexandria) and a male saint (possibly Lawrence). St Dominic and St Francis embrace in the background. The book placed on the step of the Virgin's throne is presumably a copy of St Catherine of Siena's Letters (published in Venice in 1500). The composition – with the Virgin and Child enthroned under a canopy, the curtains of which are held up by flying angels – recalls Raphael's Madonna del Baldacchino (left unfinished when Raphael left Florence for Rome in 1508). Painted in 1511 for the church of San Marco (second altar on the left, dedicated to St Catherine), but bought in March of the following year by the Florentine government for 300 ducats and presented to Jacques Hurault, Bishop of Autun and ambassador of Louis XII of France. Hurault took the picture back to France with him and left it to the cathedral at Autun. It was transferred to the Louvre in 1800, during the French Revolution.
*Annunciation (or Incarnation of Christ). Wood, 96 x 76.
This modestly-sized panel is composed like a monumental altarpiece. The Virgin, seated in a classical semicircular recess (exedra), is surprised by a small angel flying in from the left. The dove of the Holy Spirit hovers overhead. To the left are St Paul and John the Baptist standing and St Margaret kneeling; to the right are Mary Magdalene, St Francis and St Jerome. Signed and dated 1515 on the step in the centre. It appears to have been sent to Francis I in 1516.
*Noli me Tangere. Canvas, 57 x 48.
Christ appears to the Magdalen; in the background are small scenes of the Resurrection and the Maries approaching the tomb. The picture went to France as early as the reign of Louis XII (possibly in 1507) with another panel (probably the Nativity now at Chicago). It was long ascribed to Perugino. Catalogued as Albertinelli in the nineteenth century, the attribution to Fra Bartolommeo seems to have been published first in 1890 by Giovanni Morelli (Della Pittura Italiana).
Minerva. Wood, 117 x 59.
The Roman goddess is depicted, like a statue, standing in a niche. She wears a crested helmet and classical armour, and is armed with a spear and her polished shield – the one she gave to Perseus – bearing the reflection of Medusa. The panel is a companion to the Portia in the Uffizi. It is first recorded only in 1942, when it was in the hands of a Toulouse antiques dealer called Schartz and bore an attribution (not absurd) to Lorenzo Costa. It was acquired by the French State in 1945, assigned to the museum at Moulins in 1947 as a work of the seventeenth-century French School, and transferred to the Louvre storerooms in 1967 with an attribution to the Florentine School. The attribution specifically to Fra Bartolommeo, as a very early work, dates only from 1982, when the picture was included in an exhibition of Florentine paintings in the Louvre. Apart from portraits, the Minerva and Portia are the only secular paintings attributed to Fra Bartolommeo. They may date from the early or mid-1490s. Their original purpose and location are unknown.
Philadelphia. Museum of Art (J. G. Johnson Collection).
Adam and Eve. Wood, 30 x 23.
The sepia underpainting for a picture. Identifiable with the ‘little picture sketched out by the hand of Fra Bartolommeo representing Adam sitting and Eve standing, nearly half a braccio’ mentioned in a deed of separation drawn up between Fra Bartolommeo and Mariotto Albertinelli in January 1513. The figures of Adam and Eve and their children (Cain and Abel) in the picture are repeated in the background of a small picture of the Creation of Eve in Seattle. Acquired by J. G. Johnson in 1905 or 1906 from a London dealer as a work of Albertinelli. It was immediately reattributed to Fra Bartolommeo by Bernard Berenson on the strength of a photograph sent to him by Johnson. The Johnson collection also contains another version, painted by Bachiacca but based on Fra Bartolommeo’s composition (in reverse).
Pienza. Palazzo Vescovile.
Rest on Flight into Egypt. Canvas, 135 x 114.
The Virgin, seated in profile on the ground, nurses the Child. Joseph kneels in adoration. The head of the donkey, tethered to a palm tree, appears at the left edge. The picture was discovered by Pietro Torriti in 1979 in a room of the palazzo. It is possibly the ‘canvas of about two braccia, depicting a Virgin and Child and Joseph … given to the monks of Santa Lucia’, valued at 8 ducats, included in the inventory of Fra Bartolommeo’s pictures compiled at San Marco in 1516. (The identification is made the more plausible by the use of a canvas support, which was rare for Fra Bartolommeo.) Early (around 1500).
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
Holy Family with the Infant St John. Wood, 92 x 80.
Dated 1511 and inscribed with the monogram (a cross and two rings) of the San Marco workshop. Fra Bartolommeo and Mariotto Albertinelli were working in partnership at this time, and the picture may have been designed by Fra Bartolommeo but executed by Albertinelli. Recorded in the Borghese collections since 1833. There is another version, also dated 1511 and inscribed with the San Marco monogram, in the Galleria Corsini at Florence. The Virgin and the Child are both almost identical to those in Fra Bartolommeo's Virgin adoring the Child with St Joseph in the National Gallery, London, and may have been executed from the same cartoons.
Adoration of the Child. Wood, 90/87 in dia.
Recorded in old Borghese inventories as a work of Raphael (1790), Lorenzo di Credi (1833) and Verrocchio's school (1899), and later given to Credi's pupil Tommaso di Stefano or to Piero di Cosimo. The attribution to Fra Bartolommeo as a very early work (about 1495) was made by Roberto Longhi in 1926. The Madonna’s pose almost exactly repeats that in a tondo by Credi in New York, and recurs in another early tondo by Fra Bartolommeo at Munich. There were restorations in 1903 (when the panel was treated for woodworm), 1917 (when old repaint was removed) and 2004. There is an exact and excellent early copy in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Christ Blessing. Wood, 60 x 54.
Christ gives his blessing with his right hand and holds two nails from the Crucifixion in his left hand. Acquired by Paolo V Borghese in 1609 as a work of Rosso Fiorentino, and given to Perugino in an inventory of 1790. The attribution to Albertinelli in Adolfo Venturi’s 1893 catalogue was widely accepted until Everett Fahy (1969) suggested the young Fra Bartolommeo.
Rome. Galleria Nazionale (Palazzo Corsini).
Holy Family. Wood, 137 x 66.
Signed and dated 1516. Identified by Crowe and Cavalcaselle, who noted a resemblance between the Madonna and Raphael’s portrait of Maddalena Doni in the Pitti Palace, with the ‘Madonna of extraordinary beauty’ which Vasari records was painted by Fra Bartolommeo for Agnolo Doni, a rich Florentine merchant and patron of the arts who had earlier commissioned works from Michelangelo as well as Raphael. From the Corsini Gallery, which was purchased by the Italian Government in 1883. Another version, also dated 1516, in reverse and with St Elizabeth rather than Joseph, was formerly in the Cook collection at Richmond (auctioned at Christie's for £2.1 million in July 2009). There are other variants in the Pitti Palace (with both Joseph and St Elizabeth) and the London National Gallery (the Madonna and St John alone).
Rome. Vatican Pinacoteca.
St Peter; St Paul. Two panels, each 180 high.
Full-length figures standing in niches. St Peter holds his keys and a book. St Paul leans on his sword. According to Vasari, Fra Bartolommeo painted the two panels for Fra Mariano Fetti, who succeeded Bramante in 1514 as piombatore papale (keeper of the papal seal) and was a friar at the convent of San Silvestro at Montecavallo, where Fra Bartolommeo stayed on his short visit to Rome. However, Vasari may have been mistaken, since it is documented that two panels by Fra Bartolommeo of St Peter and St Paul were given to San Silvestro by San Marco. Vasari says that the St Peter was finished by Raphael after Fra Bartolommeo fell ill and returned to Florence; but this has sometimes been doubted. Acquired from San Silvestro by the Apostolic Chamber in 1711.
Rotterdam. Museum Boijmans van Beuningen.
Collection of Drawings.
The museum owns some 400 sheets of drawings by Fra Bartolommeo, around one half of his surviving oeuvre. The drawings' provenance can be traced continuously back to Fra Paolino da Pistoia, Fra Bartolommeo's pupil and heir, who inherited 883 sheets of his master's drawings. After Fra Paolino's death in 1547, he left the drawings in turn to his own pupil, Suor Plautilla Nelli, a nun at the Dominican convent of Santa Caterina in Piazza San Marco. The drawings remained at the convent until the 1720s, when they were discovered by the Florentine diplomat and connoisseur Francesco Maria Niccolò Gabburri, who mounted them in two leather-bound albums. The albums were bought in 1840 by KIng Willem II of the Netherlands, whose heirs sold them to the German banker Franz Koenigs. They were acquired by Daniel van Beuningen, the Dutch industrialist, in 1940.
The drawings at Rotterdam are mainly compositional and figure studies in pen and ink or chalk. A third album of drawings assembled by Gabburri contained forty-one sheets of landscape drawings in pen and ink. This album, which later belonged to the English architect William Kent, was rediscovered only in 1957. It was broken up and sold at auction in the same year, and the drawings it contained are now dispersed among various museums and collections.
St Petersburg. Hermitage.
Madonna and Angels. Canvas (transferred from panel in 1872), 130 x 130.
The gold plaque above the Virgin's head bears the inscription 'MATER DEI' ('Mother of God'). Signed (lower left) and dated 1515 (in tiny numbers on the plaque). Vasari tells us that Fra Bartolommeo painted several Madonnas for the Medici around this time, and this picture could be one of these. It was among the pictures collected by Pierre Crozat (1665-1740) in Toulouse and Paris, and sold by his descendants to Catherine the Great in 1772. Considerably damaged and restored.
Seattle. Art Museum.
Creation of Eve. Wood, 32 x 25.
God takes a rib from the sleeping Adam and creates Eve from it (Genesis: 2, 20-22). This small panel may date from about 1510. Roger Fry (1924) emphasized its Giorgionesque character, which he attributed to Fra Bartolommo’s Venetian visit of 1508. The figures of Adam and Eve in the background are repeated as the main subject of a small unfinished panel by Fra Bartolommeo at Philadelphia. First recorded only in 1924 in the collection of Mme La Durée at Paris; acquired by Kress in 1937.
Coronation of the Virgin (73 x 65); Two Putti (each 73 x 65).
These three fragments come from the top of the altarpiece commissioned by Ferry Carondelet in 1511. The main part is still in Besançon Cathedral. The altarpiece was damaged in 1729 when a tower collapsed, and the Coronation became separated from the main panel. By 1824 it had been removed from the cathedral and was in the collection of Conradin von Abel. It entered the Stuttgart Gallery in 1843. The altarpiece is reported to have been signed by both Fra Bartolomeo and Mariotto Albertinelli, and the execution of the Coronation is usually attributed to Albertinelli. A black chalk study for the figure of Christ (Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam) is ascribed to Fra Bartolommeo.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum.
*Presentation in the Temple. Wood, 155 x 159.
According to St Luke's Gospel (2, 22-40), Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to perform the purification rite required by the Law of Moses. The elderly priest Simeon is shown holding the Child and the eighty-four year old prophetess Anna kneels on the left. The altarpiece in the background shows Moses holding the Tablets of the Law. One of Fra Bartolommeo’s last works (signed and dated 1516). Painted (as Vasari records) for the chapel of the Novitiate at San Marco. It remained there until 1781, when Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo acquired it for the Uffizi. (The monks were given in compensation a copy by Sante Pacini, a crucifix, furnishings and silver.) It entered the Imperial collection at Vienna in 1792 in exchange for a painting by Dürer. There is an old copy (acquired in 1786 by the Grand Duke from the monks of San Giovanni dei Cavallieri as the bozzetto by Fra Bartolommeo) in the San Marco Museum.
Abduction of Dinah. Canvas, 160 x 183.
The story of the rape of Dinah, Jacob's daughter, by the Hivite prince, Shechem, and the subsequent vengeance of her brothers Simeon and Levi is told in Genesis: 34, 1-27. The subject is extremely rare in Renaissance art. Vasari says that this picture was left unfinished by Fra Bartolommeo and was later ‘coloured’ by Giuliano Bugiardini. His account is confirmed by letters written in September and October 1531 by the uncle of Michelangelo’s pupil Antonio Mini to Baccio Valori, which mention that Bugiardini was finishing a Rape of Dinah from Fra Bartolommeo’s design. In Vasari’s day the picture belonged to Cristofano Rinieri. It was later in the great collection of Emperor Rudolph II at Prague. A sheet of vigorous red chalk drawings at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, contains several separate studies for the composition.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 86 x 73.
Recorded in the 1659 inventory of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm’s collection as an ‘original work of el Frate’. Crowe and Cavalcaselle thought it possibly by a pupil and Knapp ascribed it to Fra Paolino in his pioneering 1903 monograph; but Berenson consistently included it as a Fra Bartolommeo in his Lists, and official catalogues have accepted it as a late work of the artist. A version of this picture, with the addition of the young St John, is in the Pitti Palace, Florence, under the name of Domenico Puligo.
Volterra. Cathedral. North aisle. 2nd altar.
*Annunciation. Wood, 176 x 170.
The receding pattern of the floor tiles leads the eye through the doorway to the garden and distant landscape beyond. A tondo over the doorway depicts the Sacrifice of Isaac (an Old Testament prefiguration of Christ's sacrifice). The picture was originally over the altar of the Cappella della Santissima Annunziata of the cathedral. It was probably commissioned by Madonna Costanza, widow of Matteo di Battista di Ormanno, who took over patronage of the chapel from the Gherardi family in 1498. The date 1497 is inscribed on the pillar behind the angel, and Fra Bartolommeo’s name is written (in an old but not original hand) on the back. The picture is undocumented; the first printed reference to it is in a local guidebook of 1832, which ascribes it to Ghirlandaio. An attribution to Albertinelli – made initially by Morelli (1890) and supported by Berenson in his 1896-1932 Lists – was generally accepted for a time. Then, in 1926, Roberto Longhi proposed the young Fra Bartolommeo. Some subsequent writers judged the picture a collaboration of Fra Bartolommeo and Albertinelli, but is now generally given to Fra Bartolommeo alone. It is his earliest dated work. Restored in 1996-98. A preparatory study for the figure of the angel is preserved in the Uffizi. The exquisite drawing, executed in metalpoint and brown wash on pink-tinted paper, pays particular attention to the fold-patterns of the drapery. The composition of the Annunciation is largely repeated (with a different architectural background) in a fresco attributed to Albertinelli in the church of Santa Maria a Pulicciano (near Borgo San Lorenzo).