b. about 1485 Venice, Italy, d. 1547 Rome
Though he spent most of his career in Rome, Sebastiano del Piombo's art always bore the unmistakable imprint of his early Venetian training. After first studying with Giovanni Bellini, Sebastiano defected to the "modern" master Giorgione, whose delicate light, brilliant coloring, and soft harmonies influenced him profoundly. When Giorgione died, Sebastiano and Titian completed some of his unfinished works. Sebastiano moved to Rome in 1511, where he came in contact with Raphael and his assistants working at the Villa Farnesina. After a quarrel with Raphael, Sebastiano befriended Michelangelo, who provided him with drawings for some paintings. After Raphael's death in 1520, Sebastiano was considered the best painter in Rome. Concerned with permanence for his most important commissions, Sebastiano invented a way to paint on stone. His portraits of the pope, shown in three-quarter length in a chair set diagonal to the picture plane, created the formula for subsequent papal portraits. In 1531 Pope Clement VII gave Sebastiano the well-paid position of "piombo" (lead), supervising the lead seals attached to papal bulls, or letters. The good-natured, newly christened Fra Sebastiano wrote his friend Michelangelo, "I make the neatest little monk." He continued painting some portraits, but mostly he just enjoyed his good fortune.
Cartoon of Head
Italian, about 1520
Pope Clement VII
Italian, about 1531