Bartolommeo di Pagholo del Fattorillo

1472 - 1517

Italian Florentine High Renaissance Painter

Artistically Influenced by the Following Painters - Mantegna   Raphael, Fra Angelico,  Leonardo da Vinci, and  Masaccio 

Education - apprenticed in the studio of Cosimo Rosselli and a a pupil of Mantegna

Cause of Death - The friar became paralyzed when he fell out of a window while working on a painting. He later contracted severe food poisoning after eating a great quantity of figs. Bartolommeo developed a violent fever and died in several days later. He was just of forty-eight years of age.

About the Painter

Even as a small boy Fra Bartolommeo loved to draw and paint. While the other village boys were playing in the olive groves, young Bartolommeo could be found by the river sketching wild flowers. He was apprenticed to the studio of Renaissance master Cosimo Rosselli as a young age but was later influenced greatly by Venetian painters. Particularly when it came to his color choices and the religious nature of his work.  According to Fra Bartolommeo biographer, Leader Scott, " The year 1508 marks the Frate’s first acquaintance with the Venetian school, which was not without its influence upon him. Frequent interchange of visits took place between the Dominicans in the different parts of Italy; and Fra Bartolommeo took the opportunity then offered him of going to visit his brethren at Venice."

Fra Bartolommeo was a spiritual man as well as a gifted artist. A Tuscan born painter and a member of the Dominican Order, he strove to walk in the light of Jesus and preyed as much as he painted.  Bartolomeo fervently believed that talent should only be used to glorify God Holy Word. According to Renaissance scholar John C. Van Dyke "He was a religionist, a follower of Savonarola, and a man of soul who thought to do work of a religious character and feeling; but he was also a fine painter, excelling in composition, drawing, drapery, color. The painter's element in his work, its material and earthly beauty, rather detracted from its spiritual significance. He opposed the sensuous and the nude, and yet about the only nude he ever painted—a St. Sebastian for San Marco—had so much of the earthly about it that people forgot the suffering saint in admiring the fine body, and the picture had to be removed from the convent. In such ways religion in art was gradually undermined, not alone by naturalism and classicism but by art itself. Painting brought into life by religion no sooner reached maturity than it led people away from religion by pointing out sensuous beauties in the type rather than religious beauties in the symbol."

Distinguished art historian Clara Erskine Clement states "He was born at Savignano, and studied at Florence under Cosimo Rosselli, but was much influenced by the works of Leonardo da Vinci. This painter became famous for the beauty of his pictures of the Madonna, and at the time when the great Savonarola went to Florence Bartolommeo was employed in the Convent of San Marco, where the preacher lived. The artist became the devoted friend of the preacher, and, when the latter was seized, tortured, and burned, Bartolommeo became a friar, and left his pictures to be finished by his pupil Albertinelli. For four years he lived the most austere life, and did not touch his brush: then his superior commanded him to resume his art; but the painter had no interest in it. About this time Raphael sought him out, and became his friend; he also instructed the monk in perspective, and in turn Raphael learned from him, for Fra Bartolommeo was the first artist who used lay figures in arranging his draperies; he also told Raphael some secrets of colors. About 1513 Bartolommeo went to Rome, and after his return to his convent he began what promised to be a wonderful artistic career; but he only lived four years more, and the amount of his work was so small that his pictures are now rare. His madonnas, saints, and angels are holy in their effect; his representations of architecture are grand, and while his works are not strong or powerful, they give much pleasure to those who see them."

According to author and art historian, John C. Van Dyke, "Fra Bartolommeo was among the last of the pietists in art. He had no great imagination, but some feeling and a fine color-sense for Florence. Naturally he was influenced somewhat by the great ones about him, learning perspective from Raphael, grandeur from Michael Angelo, and contours from Leonardo da Vinci. He worked in collaboration with Albertinelli (1474-1515), a skilled artist and a fellow-pupil with Bartolommeo in the workshop of Cosimo Rosselli. Their work is so much alike that it is often difficult to distinguish the painters apart.  Albertinelli was not so devout as his companion, but he painted the religious subject with feeling, as his Visitation in the Uffizi indicates. "

Van Dyke further states "The religious subject still held with the painters, but this subject in High-Renaissance days did not carry with it the religious feeling as in Gothic days. Art had grown to be something else than a teacher of the Bible. In the painter's hands it had come to mean beauty for its own sake—a picture beautiful for its form and color, regardless of its theme. This was the teaching of antique art, and the study of nature but increased the belief. A new love had arisen in the outer and visible world, and when the Church called for altar-pieces the painters painted their new love, christened it with a religious title, and handed it forth in the name of the old. Thus art began to free itself from Church domination and to live as an independent beauty. The general motive, then, of painting during the High Renaissance, though apparently religious from the subject, and in many cases still religious in feeling, was largely to show the beauty of form or color, in which religion, the antique, and the natural came in as modifying elements."
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  References -Fra Bartolommeo By Leader Scott