Fra Bartolommeo (Baccio della Porta)

Dates1472 - 1517

Fra Bartolommeo's art reflects the development of Florentine art from the detailed realism of the 1400s to the idealized grandeur, compositional simplicity, and rhythmic movement of the High Renaissance style of the 1500s. The purity of lines and volumes in one of his paintings inspired the young Raphael.

A mule driver's son, the young artist born as Baccio della Porta studied with a local painter, then worked with Ghirlandaio's conservative workshop. In 1498, when he saw Florence's convent of San Marco stormed and its strict, charismatic prior Savonarola dragged to prison, Baccio vowed to become a monk; he became Fra Bartolommeo in 1500. Seeing no distinction between life and art, he allegedly burned his non-religious works and depictions of nudes, considering them sinful. In 1504, like Fra Angelico years before him, Fra Bartolommeo ran the San Marco monastery workshop. He incorporated Leonardo da Vinci's smooth harmonies, spiritual feeling, and sfumato into his work. To stress the gulf between the divine and the earthly, Bartolommeo was among the first artists to replace contemporary costume with nondescript drapery. By 1508 he was the foremost artist of the Florentine school. Eager to stay abreast of his contemporaries artistic advances, he visited Venice that year and Rome around 1514. Bartolommeo's influence spread through his lively drawings, but the San Marco workshop closed soon after his death.