By Leader Scott
Author Of "A Nook In The Apennines"
Re-Edited By Horace Shipp And Flora Kendrick, A.R.B.S.
The reproductions in this series are from official photographs of the National Collections, or from photographs by Messrs. Andersen, Alinari or Braun.
Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael: the three great names of the noblest period of the Renaissance take our minds from the host of fine artists who worked alongside them. Nevertheless beside these giants a whole host of exquisite artists have place, and not least among them the three painters with whom Mr. Leader Scott has dealt in these pages. Fra Bartolommeo linking up with the religious art of the preceding period, with that of Masaccio, of Piero de Cosimo, his senior student in the studio of Cosimo Roselli, and at last with that of the definitely "modern" painters of the Renaissance, Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo himself, is a transition painter in this supreme period. Technique and the work of hand and brain are rapidly taking the place of inspiration and the desire to convey a message. The aesthetic sensation is becoming an end in itself. The scientific painters, perfecting their studies of anatomy and of perspective, having a conscious mastery over their tools and their mediums, are taking the place of such men as Fra Angelico.
As a painter at this end of a period of transition—a painter whose spiritual leanings would undoubtedly have been with the earlier men, but whose period was too strong for him—Fra Bartolommeo is of particular interest; and Albertinelli, for all the fiery surface difference of his outlook is too closely bound by the ties of his friendship for the Frate to have any other viewpoint.
Andrea del Sarto presents yet another phenomenon: that of the artist endowed with all the powers of craftsmanship yet serving an end neither basically spiritual nor basically aesthetic, but definitely professional. We have George Vasari's word for it; and Vasari's blame upon the extravagant and too-well-beloved Lucrezia. To-day we are so accustomed to the idea of the professional attitude to art that we can accept it in Andrea without concern. Not that other and earlier artists were unconcerned with the aspect of payments. The history of Italian art is full of quarrels and bickerings about prices, the calling in of referees to decide between patron and painter, demands and refusals of payment. Even the unworldly Fra Bartolommeo was the centre of such quarrels, and although his vow of poverty forbade him to receive money for his work, the order to which he belonged stood out firmly for the scudi which the Frate's pictures brought them. In justice to Andrea it must be added that this was not the only motive for his activities; it was not without cause that the men of his time called him "senza errori," the faultless painter; and the production of a vast quantity of his work rather than good prices for individual pictures made his art pay to the extent it did. A pot-boiler in masterpieces, his works have place in every gallery of importance, and he himself stands very close to the three greatest; men of the Renaissance.
Both Fra Bartolommeo and Albertinelli are little known in this country. Practically nothing has been written about them and very few of their works are in either public galleries or private collections. It is in Italy, of course, that one must study their originals, although the great collections usually include one or two. Most interesting from the viewpoint of the study of art is the evolution of the work of the artist-monk as he came under the influence of the more dramatic modern and frankly sensational work of Raphael, of the Venetians and of Michelangelo. In this case (many will say in that of the art of the world) this tendency detracted rather than helped the work. The draperies, the dramatic poses, the artistic sensation arrests the mind at the surface of the picture. It is indeed strange that this devout churchman should have succumbed to the temptation, and there are moments when one suspects that his somewhat spectacular pietism disguised the spirit of one whose mind had little to do with the mysticism of the mediaeval church. Or perhaps it was that the strange friendship between him and Albertinelli, the man of the cloister and the man of the world, effected some alchemy in the mind of each. The story of that lifelong friendship, strong enough to overcome the difficulties of a definite partnership between the strict life of the monastery and the busy life of the bottega, is one of the most fascinating in art history.
Mr. Leader Scott has in all three lives the opportunity for fascinating studies, and his book presents them to us with much of the flavour of the period in which they lived. Perhaps to-day we should incline to modify his acceptance of the Vasari attitude to Lucrezia, especially since he himself tends to withdraw the charges against her, but leaves her as the villainess of the piece upon very little evidence. The inclusion of a chapter upon Ghirlandajo, treated merely as a follower of Fra Bartolommeo, scarcely does justice in modern eyes to this fine artist, whose own day and generation did him such honour and paid him so well. But the author's general conclusions as to the place in art and the significance of the lives of the three painters with whom he is chiefly concerned remains unchallenged, and we have in the volume a necessary study to place alongside those of Leonardo, of Michelangelo and of Raphael for an understanding of the culmination of the Renaissance in Italy.
I. THOUGHTS ON THE RENAISSANCE II. THE "BOTTEGA" OF COSIMO ROSELLI. A.D. 1475-1486 III. THE GARDEN AND THE CLOISTER. A.D. 1487-1495 IV. SAN MARCO. A.D. 1496-1500 V. FRA BARTOLOMMEO IN THE CONVENT. A.D. 1504-1509 VI. ALBERTINELLI IN THE WORLD. A.D. 1501-1510 VII. CONVENT PARTNERSHIP. A.D. 1510-1513 VIII. CLOSE OF LIFE. A.D. 1514-1517 IX. PART I.—SCHOLARS OF FRA BARTOLOMMEO PART II.—SCHOLARS OF MARIOTTO ALBERTINELLI X. RIDOLFO GHIRLANDAJO
ANDREA DEL SARTO.
CHAPTER I. YOUTH AND EARLY WORKS. A.D. 1487-1511 II. THE SERVITE CLOISTER. A.D. 1511-1512 III. SOCIAL LIFE AND MARRIAGE. A.D. 1511-1516 IV. WORKS IN FLORENCE. A.D. 1511-1515 V. GOING TO FRANCE. A.D. 1518-1519 VI. ANDREA AND OTTAVIANO DE' MEDICI. A.D. 1521-1523 VII. THE PLAGUE AND THE SIEGE. A.D. 1525-1531 VIII. SCHOLARS OF ANDREA DEL SARTO
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
ADORATION. By BARTOLOMMEO PROCESSION TO CALVARY. By GHIRLANDAIO A SCULPTOR. By ANDREA DEL SARTO MADONNA AND CHILD WITH SS. JOHN AND ELIZABETH. By ANDREA DEL SARTO THE HOLY FAMILY. By BARTOLOMMEO THE SAVIOUR. By ALBERTINELLI VIRGIN AND CHILD. By ANDREA DEL SARTO ECCE HOMO. By BARTOLOMMEO
THOUGHTS ON THE RENAISSANCE.
It seems to be a law of nature that progress, as well as time, should be marked by periods of alternate light and darkness—day and night.
This law is nowhere more apparent than in the history of Art. Three times has the world been illuminated by the full brilliance of Art, and three times has a corresponding period of darkness ensued.
The first day dawned in Egypt and Assyria, and its works lie buried in the tombs of prehistoric Pharaohs and Ninevite kings. The second day the sun rose on the shores of many-isled Greece, and shed its rays over Etruria and Rome, and ere it set, temples and palaces were flooded with beauty. The gods had taken human form, and were come to dwell with men.
The third day arising in Italy, lit up the whole western world with the glow of colour and fervour, and its fading rays light us yet.
The first period was that of mythic art; the world like a child wondering at all around tried to express in myths the truths it could not comprehend.
The second was pagan art which satisfies itself that in expressing the perfection of humanity, it unfolds divinity. The third era of Christian art, conscious that the divine lies beyond the human, fails in aspiring to express infinitude.
Tracing one of these periods from its rise, how truly this similitude of the dawn of day is carried out. See at the first streak of light how dim, stiff, and soulless all things appear! Trees and objects bear precisely the relation to their own appearance in broad daylight as the wooden Madonnas of the Byzantine school do to those of Raphael.
Next, when the sun—the true light—first appears, how it bathes the sea and the hills in an ethereal glory not their own! What fair liquid tints of blue, and rose, and glorious gold! This period which, in art, began with Giotto and ended with Botticelli, culminated in Fra Angelico, who flooded the world of painting with a heavenly spiritualism not material, and gave his dreams of heaven the colours of the first pure rays of sunshine.
But as the sun rises, nature takes her real tints gradually. We see every thing in its own colour; the gold and the rose has faded away with the truer light, and a stern realism takes its place. The human form must be expressed, in all its solidity and truth, not only in its outward semblance, but the hidden soul must be seen through the veil of flesh. And in this lies the reason of the decline; only to a few great masters it was given to reveal spirituality in humanity—the others could only emulate form and colour, and failed.
It is impossible to contemplate art apart from religion; as truly as the celestial sun is the revealer of form, so surely is the heavenly light of religion the first inspirer of art.
Where would the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Etruscan paintings and sculptures have been but for the veneration of the mystic gods of the dead, which both prompted and preserved them?
What would Greek sculpture have been without the deified personifications of the mysterious powers of nature which inspired it? and it is the fact of the pagan religion being both sensuous and realistic which explains the perfection of Greek art. The highest ideal being so low as not to soar beyond the greatest perfection of humanity, was thus within the grasp of the artist to express. Given a manly figure with the fullest development of strength; a female one showing the greatest perfection of form; and a noble man whose features express dignity and mental power;—the ideal of a Hercules, a Venus, and a Jupiter is fully expressed, and the pagan mind satisfied. The spirit of admirers was moved more by beauty of form than by its hidden significance. In the great Venus, one recognises the woman before feeling the goddess.
As with their sculpture, without doubt it was also with painting. Mr. Symonds, in his Renaissance of the Fine Arts, speaks of the Greek revival as entirely an age of sculpture; but the solitary glance into the more perishable art of painting among the Greeks, to be seen at Cortona, reveals the exquisite perfection to which this branch was also brought. It is a painting in encaustic, and has been used as a door for his oven by the contadino who dug it up—yet it remains a marvel of genius. The subject is a female head—a muse, or perhaps only a portrait; the delicacy and mellowness of the flesh tints equal those of Raphael or Leonardo, and a lock of hair lying across her breast is so exquisitely painted that it seems to move with her breath. The features are of the large-eyed regular Greek type, womanly dignity is in every line, but it is an essentially pagan face—the Christian soul has never dawned in those eyes! With this before us, we cannot doubt that Greek art found its expression as much in colour as in form and that the same religion inspired both.
In an equal degree Renaissance Art has its roots in Christianity; but the religion is deeper and greater, and has left art behind.
The early Christians must have felt this when they expressed everything in symbols, for these are merely suggestive, and allow the imagination full play around and beyond them; they are mere stepping-stones to the ideal which exists but is as yet inexpressible.
"Myths and symbols always mark the dawn of a religion, incarnation and realism its full growth." So after a time when the first vague wonder and ecstasy are over, symbols no longer content people; they want to bring religion home to them in a more tangible form, to humanize it, in fact. From this want it arises that nature next to religion inspires art, and finally takes its place. For it follows as a matter of course that as art is a realistic interpreter of the spiritual, so it is more easy to follow nature than spirituality, nature being the outward or realistic expression of the mind of God.
It was a saying of Buffalmacco, who was not one of the most devout painters of the fourteenth century, "Do not let us think of anything but to cover our walls with saints, and out of disrespect to the demons to make men more devout." And Savonarola, though he has been accused of being one of the causes of the decline, thus upheld the sacred influences of art; when he exclaimed in one of his fervent bursts of eloquence, "You see that Saint there in the Church and say, 'I will live a good life and be like him.'" If these were the feelings of the least devout and the religious fanatic, how hallowed must the influences of Christian painting have been to the intermediate ranks. Mr. Symonds beautifully expresses the tendency of that time: "The eyes of the worshipper should no longer have a mere stock or stone to contemplate; his imagination should be helped by the dogmatic presentation of the scenes of sacred history, and his devotion quickened by lively images of the passion of our Lord.... The body and soul moreover should be reconciled, and God's likeness should be once more acknowledged in the features and limbs of men." [Footnote: Symonds' Renaissance of the Fine Arts, chap. i. p. 11.]
The school of Giotto was the first to feel this need of the soul. He, taking his ideas from nature, clothed the soul in a thin veil; the Italians call his school that of poetic art; it reached sentiment and poetry, but did not pass them. Yet the thirteenth century was sublime for the expression of the idea; one only has to study the intense meaning in the works of Giotto, and Orcagna, Duccio, and the Lorenzetti of Siena to perceive this. The fourteenth century, on the contrary, rendered itself glorious for manifestation of form. "Artists thought the veil of ideality a poor thing, and wished to give the solidity of the body to the soul; they stole every secret from nature; the senses were content, but not sentiment." [Footnote: Purismo nell' Arte, da Cesare Guasti.]
The artists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, of whom we have to speak, blended the two schools, and became perfection as far as they went. Michelangelo drew more from the vigorous thirteenth-century masters, and Raphael from the more sensuous followers of Masaccio and Lippi. The former tried to put the Christian soul into his works, but its infinite depth was unattainable. As his many unfinished works prove, he always felt some great overwhelming meaning in his inmost soul, which all his passionate artistic yearnings were inadequate to express. Raphael tried to bring realism into religion through painting, and to give us the scenes of our Lord's and the Apostles' lives in such a humanized aspect, that we should feel ourselves of his nature. But the incarnation of religion in art defeated its own ends; sensuousness was introduced in place of the calm, unearthly spirituality of the earlier masters. Compare the cartoon of S. Paul preaching at Athens, in which he has all the majesty of a Casar in the Forum, with the lowly spirit of the Apostle's life! In truth, Raphael failed to approach nearer to sublimity than Fra Angelico, with all his faulty drawing but pure spirit.
After him, artists loved form and colour for themselves rather than for the spiritual meaning. Miss Owen [Footnote: Art Schools of Medieval Christendom, edited by Ruskin.] accuses Raphael of having rendered Art pagan, but this seems blaming him for the weakness of his followers, who took for their type his works rather than his ideal. The causes of the decline were many, and are not centred in one man. As long as Religion slumbered in monasticism and dogma, Art seizing on the human parts, such as the maternity of the Madonna, the personifications of saints who had lived in the world, was its adequate exponent. The religion awakened by the aesthetic S. Francis, who loved all kinds of beauty, was of the kind to be fed by pictures. But when Savonarola had aroused the fervour of the nation to its highest point, when beauty was nothing, the world nothing, in comparison to the infinity of God;—then art, finding itself powerless to express this overwhelming infinity, fell back on more earthly founts of inspiration, the classics and the poets.
Lorenzo de' Medici and Pope Nicholas V. had fully as much to do with the decline as Savonarola. The Pope in Rome, and Lorenzo in Florence, led art to the verge of paganism; Savonarola would have kept it on the confines of purism; it was divided and fell, passing through the various steps of decadence, the mannerists and the eclectics, to rise again in this nineteenth century with what is after all its true aim, the interpretation of nature, and the illustration of the poetry of a nation.
But with the decadence we have happily nothing to do; the artists of whom we speak first, Fra Bartolommeo and Albertinelli, belong to the culmination of art on its rising side, while Andrea del Sarto stands as near to the greatest artists on the other side, and is the last of the group before the decline. On Fra Bartolommeo the spirituality of Fra Angelico still lingered, while the perfection of Raphael illumined him. Andrea del Sarto, on the other side, had gathered into his hands the gleams of genius from all the great artists who were his elder contemporaries, and so blending them as to form seemingly a style of his own, distinct from any, has left on our walls and in our galleries hundreds of masterpieces of colour, as gay and varied as the tints the orientals weave into their wondrous fabrics.
It might be said with truth that Fra Bartolommeo painted for the soul, and Andrea del Sarto for the eye.
THE "BOTTEGA" OF COSIMO ROSELLI. A.D. 1475-1486.
Amongst the thousand arteries in which the life blood of the Renaissance coursed in all its fulness, none were so busy or so important as the "botteghe" of the artists. In these the genius of the great masters, the Pleiades of stars at the culmination of art in Florence, was either tenderly nursed, or sharply pruned into vigour by struggling against discouragement and envy. In these the spirit of awakened devotion found an outlet, in altarpieces and designs for church frescoes which were to influence thousands. Here the spirit of poetry, brooding in the mysterious lines of Dante, or echoing from past ages in the myths of the Greeks, took form and glowed on the walls in mighty cartoons to be made imperishable in fresco. Here the spirit of luxury was satisfied by beautiful designs for ornaments, dress stuffs, tapestries, vases and "cassoni," &c., which brought beauty into every life, and made each house a poem. The soul, the mind, and the body, could alike be supplied at those fountains of the beautiful, the artshops or schools.
Whilst Michelangelo as a youth was drawing from the cartoons of the Sassetti chapel in the school of Domenico Ghirlandajo, Cosimo Roselli was just receiving as a pupil a boy only a little behind him in genius. A small, delicate-faced, spiritual-eyed boy of nine years, known as Baccio della Porta, who came with a roll of drawings under his arm and high hopes in his soul, no doubt trotting along manfully beside Cosimo's old friend, Benedetto da Majano, the sculptor, who had recommended his being placed in the studio.
By the table given in the note [Footnote: Pietro, a Genoese, came in 1400 to the parish of S. Michele, at Montecuccioli in Mugello; he was a peasant, and had a son Jacopo, who was father of Paolo, the muleteer; and three other sons, Bartolo, Giusto, and Jacopo, who had a podere at Soffignano, near Prato. Paolo married first Bartolommea, daughter of Zanobi di Gallone, by whom he had a son, Bartolommeo, known as Baccio della Porta, born 1475. The first wife dying, Paolo married Andrea di Michaele di Cenni, who had four sons, Piero, Domenico, Michele, and Francesco; only Piero lived to grow up, and he became a priest. [Favoured by Sig. Milanesi.]] it will be seen that Baccio was the son of Paolo, a muleteer, which no doubt was a profitable trade in those days when the country roads were mere mule-tracks, and the traffic between different towns was carried on almost entirely by horses and mulepacks. There is some doubt as to the place of Baccio's birth, which occurred in 1475. Vasari gives it as Savignano near Prato; Crowe and Cavalcaselle [Footnote: Vol. iii. chap. xiii. p. 427.] assert it was Suffignano, near Florence, where they say Paolo's brothers, Jacopo and Giusto, were contadini or peasants.
But on consulting the post-office authorities we find no place called Suffignano near Florence; it must therefore have been a village near Prato called Soffignano, which from similarity of sound Vasari confused with the larger place, Savignano. This is the more probable, for Rosini asserts that "Benedetto da Majano, who had bought a podere near Prato, knew him and took him into his affections, and by his means placed him with Cosimo." [Footnote: Rosini, Storia della Pittura, chap. xvii. p. 47.]
It is certainly probable that Paolo's wife lived with his family during his wanderings, because it is the true Italian custom, and Baccio was in that case born in his uncle's house; for it is not till 1480 that we find Paolo retired from trade and set up in a house of his own in Florence at the gate of S. Pier Gattolini, now the Porta Romana.
The friendship begun at Prato must have been continued in Florence, for in 1480 Paolo not only owned that house at the gate of S. Pier Gattolini, but was the proud possessor of a podere at Brozzi, which yielded six barrels of wine. He is a merciful man too, for among his possessions are two mules disutili e vecchi (old and useless). At this time Baccio was six years old, and his three stepbrothers quite babies. [Footnote: Archives of Florence, Portate al Castato, 1480-1.] Paolo, as well as his mules, had earned his repose, being certainly old, if not useless, and was anxious for his little sons to be placed out in the world as early as possible. Thus it came that in 1484 Baccio was taken away from his brothers, who played under the shadow of the old gateway, and was put to do the drudgery of the apprenticeship to art. He had to grind colours for Cosimo—who, as we know, used a great deal of colour, having dazzled the eyes of the Pope with the brilliancy of his blue and gold in the Sistine Chapel some years before—he had to sweep out the studio, no doubt assisted by Mariotto Albertinelli, a boy of his own age, and to run errands, carrying designs for inspection to expectant brides who wanted the chests painted to hold their wedding clothes, or doing the messenger between his master and the nuns of S. Ambrogio, who paid Cosimo their gold florins by the hand of the boy in 1484 and 1485. [Footnote: Note to Crowe and Cavalcaselle, vol. iii. chap. xiii. p. 429.]
Whether his age made him a more acceptable means of communication with the nuns, or whether Pier di Cosimo, the elder pupil, already displayed his hatred of womankind, I know not; perhaps the boy already showed that innate devotion and especial fitness for sanctity which marks his entire art career. Truly everything in his youthful life combined to lead his thoughts to higher things. The first fresco at which he assisted was in this solemn cloister of St. Ambrogio, and the subject the Miracle of the Sacrament; the saintly air of the place, the calm faces of the white-hooded nuns, must all have had an influence in inspiring his youthful mind with the spirit of devotion.
Baccio's fellow-students were not many, but they formed an interesting group. Pier di Cosimo was the head man, and eldest of all; with such ties was he bound to his master and godfather, that he was known better as Cosimo's Peter than by his own patronymic of Chimenti. He was at this time twenty-two years of age, his registry in the Florentine Guild proves his birth in 1462, as the son of Lorenzo, son of Piero, son of Antonio, Chimenti.
Being the eldest of five brothers, it is difficult to conceive how a member of a large family grew up developing such eccentricities as are usually the fruit of isolation.
In the studio Piero was industrious and steady, working earnestly, whether he was assisting his master's designs or carrying out his own fancies of monsters, old myths, and classic fairy stories. No doubt the two boys, Mariotto and Baccio, found little companionship in this abstracted young man always dreaming over his own ideas. If they told him an anecdote, he would look up vacantly at the end not having heard a word; at other times every little noise or burst of laughter would annoy him, and he would be immoderately angry with the flies and mosquitos.
Piero had already been to Rome, and had assisted Cosimo in his fresco of Christ preaching on Lake Tiberias; indeed most judges thought his landscape the best part of that work, and the talent he showed obtained him several commissions. He took the portraits of Virginio Orsini, Ruberto Sanseverino and Duke Valentino, son of Pope Alessandro VI. He was much esteemed as a portrait painter also in Florence, and from his love of classical subjects, and extreme finish of execution, he ranked as one of the best painters of "cassoni," or bridal-linen chests.
This fashion excited the indignation of Savonarola, who in one of his sermons exclaimed, "Do not let your daughters prepare their 'corredo' (trousseau) in a chest with pagan paintings; is it right for a Christian spouse to be familiar with Venus before the Virgin, or Mars before the saints?"
Thus Piero being a finished painter, was often Cosimo Roselli's substitute in the instruction of the two boys, for Cosimo having come home from Rome with some money, lived at his ease; but still continued to paint frescoes in company with Piero.
Another pupil was Andrea di Cosimo, whose peculiar branch of art was that of the grotesque. He no doubt drew designs for friezes and fountains, for architraves and door mouldings, in which distorted faces look out from all kinds of writhing scrolls; and lizards, dragons, snakes, and creeping plants, mingle according to the artist's fancy. Andrea was however often employed in more serious work, as the records of the Servite Convent prove, for they contain the note of payment to him, in 1510, for the curtains of the altarpiece which Filippino Lippi had painted. These curtains were till lately attributed to Andrea del Sarto, or Francia Bigio.
This is the Andrea Feltrini mentioned by Crowe and Cavalcaselle as working in the cloister of the Servi with Andrea del Sarto and Francia Bigio between 1509 and 1514.[Footnote: History of Painting, vol. iii. chap. xvii. p. 546.]
But Baccio's dearest friend in the studio was a boy nearly his own age, Mariotto Albertinelli, son of Biagio di Bindo, born October 13, 1474. He had experienced the common lot of young artists in those days, and had been apprenticed to a gold-beater, but preferred the profession of painter. From the first these two lads, being thrown almost entirely together in the work of the studio, formed one of those pure, lasting friendships, of which so many exist in the annals of art, and so few in the material world. They helped each other in the drudgery, and enjoyed their higher studies together; but they did not draw all their inspirations from the over-coloured works of Cosimo—although Mariotto once reproduced his red-winged cherubim in after life [Footnote: In the 'Trinity' in the Belle Arti, Florence.]—nor from the hard and laboured myths of Piero.
They went to higher founts, for scarcely a trace of these early influences are to be found in their paintings. Vasari says they studied the Cose di Leonardo. The great artist had at this time left the studio of Verocchio, and was fast rising into fame in Florence, so it is most probable that two youths with strong artistic tendencies would study, not only the sketches, but also the precepts, of the great man. Besides this there were two national art-schools open to students in Florence: these were the frescoes of Masaccio and Lippi in the Carmine, and the Medicean garden in the Via Cavour, then called Via Larga.
THE GARDEN AND THE CLOISTER. A.D. 1487-1495.
The two boys left the studio of Cosimo Roselli at an early age. There had been trouble in the house of Paolo the ex-muleteer, and Baccio's already serious mind had been awed by the sight of death. His little brother, Domenico, died in 1486 at seven years of age. His father, Paolo, died in 1487; thus Baccio, at the age of twelve or thirteen, was left the head of the family, and the supporter of his stepmother and her babes. This may account for his leaving Cosimo so young, and setting up his studio with Mariotto as his companion, in his own house at the gate of S. Pier Gattolini; this partnership began presumably about the year 1490.
Conscious that they were not perfected by Cosimo's teaching, they both set themselves to undergo a strict discipline in art, and, friends as they were, their paths began to diverge from this point. Their natural tastes led them to opposite schools—Baccio to the sacred shrine of art in the shadowed church, Mariotto to the greenery and sunshine of the Medici garden, where beauty of nature and classic treasures were heaped in profusion; whose loggie [Footnote: Arched colonnades.] glowed with the finest forms of Greek sculpture, resuscitated from the tombs of ages to inspire newer artists to perfection, but alas! also to debase the aim of purely Christian art.
Baccio's calm devotional mind no doubt disliked the turmoil of this garden, crowded with spirited youths; the tone of pagan art was not in accordance with his ideal, and so he learned from Masaccio and Lippi that love of true form and harmonious composition, which he perfected afterwards by a close study of Leonardo da Vinci, whose principles of chiaroscuro he seems to have completely carried out. With this training he rose to such great celebrity even in his early manhood, that Rosini [Footnote: Rosini, Storia della Pittura, chap. xvii. p. 48.] calls him "the star of the Florentine school in Leonardo and Michelangelo's absence," and he attained a grandeur almost equal to the latter, in the S. Mark and SS. Peter and Paul of his later years.
Meanwhile Mariotto was revelling in the Eden of art, drawing daily beneath the Loggie—where the orange-trees grew close to the pillars— from the exquisite statues and "torsi," peopling the shades with white forms, or copying cartoons by the older masters, which hung against the walls.
The custode of all these treasures was Bertoldo, an old sculptor, who boasted of having been the scholar of Donatello, and also heir to his art possessions. He could also point to the bronze pulpits of San Lorenzo, which he finished, as proof of his having inherited a portion of his master's spirit. Bertoldo, having doubtless rendered to Duke Cosimo's keeping his designs by Donatello, which were preserved in the garden, obtained the post of instructor there; but his age may have prevented his keeping perfect order, and the younger spirits overpowered him. There were Michelangelo, with all the youthful power of passion and force which he afterwards imparted to his works, and the audacious Torrigiano, with his fierce voice, huge bulk, and knitted brows, who was himself a discord like the serpent in Eden. Easily offended, he was prompt in offering outrage. Did any other young man show talent or surpass him, revenge deep and mean as that of Bandinelli to Michelangelo was sure to follow, the envied work being spoiled in his rage. Then there were the fun-loving Francesco Granacci, and the witty Rustici, as full of boyish pranks as they were of genius—what could one old man do among so many?—and now comes the impetuous Mariotto to add one more unruly member to his class.
How well one can imagine the young men—in loose blouses confined at the waist, or in buff jerkins and close-fitting hose, with jaunty cloaks or doublets, and little red or black caps, set on flowing locks cut square in front—passing beneath the shadows of the arches among the dim statues, or crossing the garden in the sunshine amid the orange-trees, under the splendid blue Italian skies.
We can see them painting, modelling, or drawing large cartoons in charcoal, while old Bertoldo passes from easel to easel, criticising and fault-finding, detailing for the hundredth time Donatello's maxims, and moving on, heedless or deaf to the irreverent jokes of his ungrateful pupils.
Then, like a vision of power and grandeur, Lorenzo il Magnifico enters with a group of his classic friends. Politian and the brothers Pulci admire again the ancient sculptures which are to them as illustrations of their readings, and Lorenzo notes the works of all the students who were destined to contribute to the glory of the many Medicean palaces. How the burly Torrigiano's heart burns within him when the Duke praises his compeer's works!
Sometimes Madonna Alfonsina, the mother of Lorenzo, and widow of Piero, walked here, and she also took an interest in the studies of the youths. Mariotto especially attracted her by his talent and zeal. She commissioned him to paint some pictures for her to send as a present to her own family, the Orsini of Rome. These works, of which the subjects are not known, passed afterwards into the possession of Casar Borgia. She also sat to Mariotto for her own portrait. It is easily imagined how elated the excitable youth became at this notice from the mother of the magnificent Lorenzo. He had dreams of making a greater name than even his master, Cosimo, whose handiwork was in the Sistine; of excelling Michelangelo, of whose genius the world was beginning to talk; and, as adhering to a party was the only way to success in those days, he became a strong Pallesco, [Footnote: The Palleschi were the partizans of the Medici, so called because they took as their standard the Palle, or Balls, the arms of that family.] trusting wholly in the favour of Madonna Alfonsina.
He even absented himself almost constantly from the studio, which Baccio shared with him, and worked at the Medici palace, [Footnote: This break is signified by Baldinucci, Opere, vol. iv. p. 84, and by Vasari, who says that after the exile of Piero he returned to Baccio.] but, alas! in 1494 this brilliant aspect of his fortunes changed.
Lorenzo being dead, Piero de' Medici was banished, the great palace fell into the hands of the republican Signoria, and all the painters were left without patronage.
Mariotto, very much cast down, bethought himself of a friend who never failed him, and whose love was not affected by party; and, returning to the house of Baccio, he set to work, most likely in a renewed spirit of confidence in the comrade who stood by him when the princes in whom he trusted failed him. Whatever his frame of mind, he began now to study earnestly the works of Baccio, who, while he was seeking patronage in the palace, had been purifying his genius in the Church. Mariotto imbibed more and more of Baccio's style, till their works so much resembled one another that indifferent judges could scarcely distinguish them apart. It would be interesting if we could see those early pictures done for Madonna Alfonsina, and compare them with the style formed after this second adherence to Fra Bartolommeo. What his manner afterwards became we have a proof in the Salutation (1503), in which there is grand simplicity of motive combined with the most extreme richness of execution and fullest harmony of colour.
This second union between the friends could not have been so satisfactory to either as the first pure boyish love, when they had been full of youthful hopes, and felt their hearts expand with the dreams and visions of genius. Now instead of the mere differences between two styles of art, there were differences which much more seriously affected their characters; they were daily sundering, one going slowly towards the cloister, the other to the world. Albertinelli had gained a greater love of worldly success and luxury.
Baccio's mind, always attuned to devotion, was now intensified by family sorrows, which no doubt brought him nearer to heaven. Thus softened, he had the more readily received the seeds of faith which Savonarola scattered broadcast.
Yet though every word of the one was a wound to the other, this strangely assorted pair of friends did not part. Rosini well defined their union as "a knot which binds more strongly by pulling contrary ways." [Footnote: Storia della Pittura, chap. xvii. p. 48]
So when Albertinelli, while colouring with zeal a design of Baccio's, would inveigh against all monks, the Dominicans in particular, and Savonarola especially, his friend would argue that the inspired prophet was not an enemy, but a purifier and reformer of art. Probably Baccio was at the Duomo on that Sunday in Lent, 1495, and reported to Mariotto those wondrous words of Savonarola, that "Beauty ought never to be taken apart from the true and good," and how, after quoting the same sentiments from Socrates and Plato, the preacher went on to say, "True beauty is neither in form nor colour, but in light. God is light, and His creatures are the more lovely as they approach the nearer to Him in beauty. And the body is the more beautiful according to the purity of the soul within it." Certain it is that this divine light lived ever after in the paintings of Fra Bartolommeo.
He frequented the cloisters of San Marco, where even Lorenzo de' Medici used to go and hear the prior expound Christianity near the rose tree. There were Lorenzo di Credi and Sandro Botticelli, both middle-aged men, of a high standing as artists; there were the Delia Robbias, father and son, and several others. Sandro, while listening, must have taken in the inspired words with the scent and beauty of the roses, whose spirit he gives in so many of his paintings.
Young Baccio, on the contrary, feasted his eyes on the speaker's face, till the very soul within it was imprinted on his mind, from whence he reproduced it in that marvellous likeness, the year after the martyrdom of Savonarola.
This is the earliest known work of Fra Bartolommeo, and is a faithful portrait; the deep-sunk eye-socket, and eye like an internal fire, showing the preacher's powerful mind; the prominent aquiline nose and dilating vehement nostril bespeaking his earnestness and decision; the large full mouth alone shows the timorousness which none but himself knew of, so overpowered was it by his excitable spirit. The handling is Baccio's own able style, but Sig. Cavalcaselle thinks the influences of Cosimo Roselli are apparent in the low tone and clouded translucent colour; he signed it "Hieronymi Ferrariensis, a Deo missi propheta effigies," a legend which expresses the more than reverence which Baccio cherished for the preacher. This portrait has only lately been identified by its present possessor, Sig. Ermolao Rubieri, who discovered the legend under a coat of paint. Its vicissitudes are traceable from the time when Sig. Averardo (or, as Vasari calls him, Alamanno) Salviati brought it back from Ferrara, where no doubt it had been in the possession of Savonarola's family. Salviati gave it to the convent of San Vincenzo at Prato, from which place Sig. Rubieri purchased it in 1810. The likeness of the reformer in the Belle Arti of Florence has been supposed to be this one, but it is more likely to be the one done by Fra Bartolommeo at Pian di Mugnone in after years, when he drew the friar as S. Peter Martyr, with the wound on his head.
SAN MARCO. A.D. 1496-1500.
Padre Marchese, himself a Dominican, speaks thus of his convent:—"San Marco has within its walls the Renaissance, a compendium in two artists. Fra Angelico, the painter of the ideal, Fra Bartolommeo, of form. The first closes the antique Tuscan school. He who has seen Fra Angelico, has seen also Giotto, Cimabue, &c. The second represents the modern school. In him are almost comprised Masaccio, Lorenzo di Credi, Leonardo, Buonarroti, and Andrea del Sarto."
The first, Fra Angelico, "sets himself to contemplate in God the fount and architype of the beautiful, and, as much as is possible to mortal hands, reproduces and stamps it in those works which a sensual mind cannot understand, but which to the heavenly soul speak an eloquent language. Fra Bartolommeo, with more analysis, works thoughtfully ... he ascends from the effect to the cause, and in created things contemplates a reflection of spiritual beauty."
It is true the Dominican order has been as great a patron of arts as the Franciscan of literature. It united with Niccolo Pisano to give form to national architecture. It had sculptors, miniaturists, and glass painters. As a building San Marco has been a shrine of art; since the time that Michelozzi, with the assistance of the Medici, built the convent for Sant' Antonino, and Fra Angelico left the impress of his soul on the walls, a long line of artist monks has lived within its cloisters. With San Marco our story has now to deal, for it is impossible to write Fra Bartolommeo's life without touching on the well-known history of Savonarola. The great preacher's influence in these years, from 1492 to 1497, entered into almost every individual in Florence, either to draw them to devotion, or to stir them up to the greatest opposition.
The artists, whose minds were probably the most impressional, were his fervent adherents. He has been accused of being the ruin of art, but "this cry has only arisen in our time; the silence of contemporaries, although not friendly to him, proves that he was not in that century so accused." [Footnote: Gino Capponi, Storia delta Republica di Firenze, lib. vi. chap. ii.] The only mention of anything of artistic value is a "tavoliere" [Footnote: A chess or draught board.] of rich work, spoken of by Burlamacchi and Benivieni, in a "Canzone di un Piagnone sul bruciamento delle Vanita." Savonarola himself was an artist and musician in early life, the love of the beautiful was strong within him, only he would have it go hand in hand with the good and true. His dominant spirit was that of reform; as he tried to regenerate mind, morals, literature, and state government, so he would reform art, and fling over it the spiritual light which illumed his own soul.
It was natural that such a mind should act on the devotional character of Baccio. What could he do but join when every church was full of worshippers, each shrine at the street corners had a crowd of devout women on their knees before it—when thousands of faces were uplifted in the vast expanse of the Duomo, and every face burned with fervour as the divine flame from the preacher lit the lamp of each soul—when in the streets he met long processions of men, women, and children, the echoes of whose hymns (Laudi) filled the narrow streets, and went up to the clear air above them?
Then came that strange carnival when there were no maskers in the city, but white-robed boys went from house to house to collect the vanities for the burning—when the flames of the fires, hitherto saturnalian, were the flames of a holocaust, wherein each one cast the sins and temptations, even the pretty things which, though dear to himself, withdrew him from God. And when the white-robed boys came to the studio of the friends at the gate of S. Pier Gattolini, with what sighs and self-immolation Baccio looked for the last time at some of his studies which he judged to come under the head of anathemata, and handed them over to the acolytes. How Mariotto's soul, warm to Pagan art, burned within him at this sacrifice! And how he would talk more than ever against the monks, and hang up his own cartoons and studies of the Greek Venus in the studio for Baccio's behoof!
In these years we have no notice of authentic works done by the youthful partners, though biographers talk of their having commissions for madonnas, and other works of art.
In 1497 Francesco Valori, the grand-featured, earnest admirer of Savonarola, became Gonfaloniere in the time of Piero de' Medici's exile, [Footnote: Gino Capponi, Storia delta Republica di Firenze, lib. vi. chap. xi. p. 233.] and the friar's party was in the ascendent. Rosini [Footnote: Storia delta Pittura, chap. xvii. p. 48.] says that belonging to a faction was a means of fame, and that the Savonarola party was powerful, giving this as a reason for Baccio's partisanship; but this we can hardly believe, his whole life proved his earnestness. He was much beloved in Florence for his calm upright nature and good qualities. He delighted in the society of pious and learned men, spent much time in the convent, where he had many friends among the monks; yet with all he kept still faithful to his early friend Mariotto, whose life was cast so differently. Savonarola's faction was powerful, but the Medici had still adherents who stirred up a strong party against him.
His spirit of reform at length aroused the ire of the Pope, who forbade him to preach. He disobeyed, and the sermons on Ezekiel were scenes of tumult; no longer a group of rapt faces dwelling on his words, but frowns, murmurs, and anathemas from a crowd only kept off him by a circle of armed adherents round his pulpit.
At length, on June 22nd, the excommunication by Pope Alessandro VI. (Borgia) fell like a thunderclap, and the Medicean youths marched in triumphant procession with torches and secular music to burlesque the Laudi; no doubt Albertinelli was one of these, while Baccio grieved among the awestruck friars in the convent.
In 1498 Savonarola again lifted up his voice; the church was not large enough, so he preached beneath the blue sky on the Piazza San Marco; and Fra Domenico Buonvicini da Pescia, in the eagerness of partisanship, said that his master's words would stand the ordeal of fire. Then came that tumultuous day of April 7th, the "Sunday of the Olives," when the Franciscans and Dominicans argued while the fire burnt out before them, when Savonarola's great spirit quailed within him, and the ordeal failed; a merciful rain quenching the flames which none dared to brave save the undaunted Fra Domenico himself.
There was no painting done in the studio on that day we may be sure. Baccio was one of the surging, conflicting crowd gathered beneath the mingling shadows of Orcagna's arches and Arnolfo's great palace, and at eventide he was one of the armed partisans who protected the friar back to his convent, menaced not only by rains from heaven, but by the stormy wrath of an angry populace, defrauded of the sight they came to see.
The next day was the one which determined the painter's future life.
There was in the city a curious process of crystallisation of all the particles held in solution round the fire the previous day. The Palazzo Vecchio attracted about its doors the "Arrabiati." The "Compagnacci" assembled, armed, by the Duomo. The streets were full of detached parties of Piagnoni, treading ways of peril to their centre, San Marco.
Passions raged and seethed all day, till at the hour of vespers a cry arose, "a San Marco," and thither the multitude—500 Compagnacci, and 300 Palleschi—rushed, armed with picks and arquebusses, &c. They killed some stray Piagnoni whom they found praying by a shrine, and placed guards at the streets which led to the convent; then the assault began.
The church was dimly lighted. Savonarola and Fra Domenico kneeled on the steps of the altar, with many worshippers around them, singing tremulous hymns; amongst these were Francesco Valori, Ridolfi, and Baccio della Porta, but all armed, as Cronaca tells us. They still sang hymns when the doors were attacked with stones; then leaving the priests and women to pray for them the men rushed to the defence.
Old Valori, with a few brave friends, guarded the door; others made loop-holes of the windows and fired out; some went up the campanile, and some on the roof. Baccio fought bravely among the rest. The Palleschi were almost repulsed, but at length succeeded in setting fire to the doors. The church was filled with smoke; a turbulent crowd rushed wildly in. Savonarola saw his people fall dead beside him on the altar steps, and, taking up the Sacrament, he fled to the Greek library, where the messengers of the Signoria came and arrested both himself and Fra Domenico. It was in the fierce fight that ensued when the enemies poured in, laying hands sacrilegiously on every thing sacred, that Baccio made the vow that if he were saved this peril, he would take the habit—a vow which certainly was not made in a cowardly spirit, he fighting to the death, and then espousing the losing cause. [Footnote: Gino Capponi, lib. vi. chaps. i. and ii., and Padre Marchese, San Marco, p. 147 et seq.]
Then came that sad 23rd of May, the eve of the Ascension, when three martyrs went calmly to their death beneath the shadow of the old palace, amidst the insults of an infuriated crowd, and Arno's yellow waters received their ashes. [Footnote: Capponi, chap. ii. p. 253.]
After the death of Savonarola the party had many defaulters; but Baccio, the Delia Robbias, Credi, Cronaca, and many other artists, were faithful, and even showed their grief by abandoning for a time the arts they loved. "It almost seemed as if with him they had lost the sacred flame from which their fervid imagination drew life and aliment." [Footnote: Marchese, San Marco, lib. iii. p. 261.]
While all these events had been taking place, Baccio had worked as often as his perturbed spirit would allow, at a great fresco of the Last Judgment, in a chapel of the cemetery of S. Maria Nuova. A certain Gerozzi, di Monna Venna Dini, gave him the commission, and as far as he had gone, the painter had given entire satisfaction. This fresco, his first as far as is known, shows Baccio's style as fully as his later ones. We have here his great harmony of form, and intense suggestiveness in composition. The infinity of heaven is emblematised in circles of saints and cherubim around the enthroned Christ. The cross, a link between heaven and earth, is borne by a trinity of angels; S. Michael, as the avenging spirit, stands a powerful figure in the foreground dividing the saved from the lost; the whole composition forming a heavenward cross on an earthly foundation. There are no caves and holes of torture with muscular bodies writhing within them; but in the despairing figures passing away on the right, some with heads bowed on clasped hands, others lifting up faces and arms in a vain cry for mercy, what suggestions there are of infinite remorse!—more dignified far than the distorted sufferers in the torture pits of previous masters. These are just indicated by two demons, and a subterranean fire behind the unblest souls. Miss Owen, [Footnote: Art Schools of Christendom, edited by Prof. Ruskin.] speaking Mr. Ruskin's sentiments, calls this a great falling off from Giotto and Orcagna's conceptions; but though theirs may be more powerful and terrible, a greater suggestion of Christian religion is here.
They, and later, Michelangelo, flung Dante's great struggling soul in tangible forms upon the walls, and embodied his poem, awful, grand, and earnest, with all the human passion intensified into human suffering. Fra Bartolommeo shows the Christian spirit; his faces look beyond the present judgment, and, instead of wrath, mercy is the predominating idea. It is like the difference in spirit between the Old Testament and the New.
The painter's reverence of Fra Angelico, and estimation of the divinity of art, is shown by Fra Angelico being placed among the saints of heaven on the right of the Saviour.
Leonardo's instructions for shading off a light sky will occur to any one who studies the finely gradated tints mingling with the clouds around the celestial group. But grand as the fresco is, and interesting as it must have been to the artist at this time, when thoughts of Savonarola mingled with every stroke, he felt he was not fulfilling his true mission in the world. Drawn more and more to the convent, hallowed to him by the memory of the martyr-friar, he was also more attuned to thoughts of retirement by family bereavements—one young brother, Piero, only being left to him out of the whole circle. The reluctance to leave this youth alone may have deferred for a time his taking the monastic vows; but having placed him under the guardianship of Santi Pagnini, a Dominican, he consigned the Last Judgment to Mariotto to finish, and leaving his worldly goods to his brother, took the habit in the convent of S. Domenico, at Prato, on July 26th, 1500, two years after first making the resolution. His year of probation over, he took the final vows and became Fra Bartolommeo.
A document in S. Marco proves that he was possessed of worldly goods when he entered, [Footnote: Rosini, Storia della Pittura, chap xxvii.] among which were the house of his father in S. Pier Gattolini, and the podere at Brozzi. Having once given himself up to monasticism, Fra Bartolommeo would offer no half-service, his brushes were left behind with all other worldly things, and here closes Baccio della Porta's first artistic career.
His sun was set only to rise again to greater brilliance in the future as Fra Bartolommeo, a name famous for ever in the annals of art.
FRA BARTOLOMMEO IN THE CONVENT. A.D. 1504-1509.
Four years had passed, and the monk had never touched a pencil, but his mission in art was not fulfilled, and events were working towards that end, for the spirit of art once awakened could not die either in that convent or in that age.
His friend, Mariotto, kept him au courant in all the gossip of art, and told him of the great cartoons of Leonardo and Michelangelo, which he too went to see. They might have inspired him afresh, or perhaps in advising Albertinelli he himself felt impelled to paint, or possibly the visits of Raphael in 1504 influenced him.
Padre Marchese takes the conventional view, and says that Santi Pagnini, the oriental scholar and lover of art, came back to S. Marco in 1504 as prior, and used not only his entreaties, but his authority, to induce Fra Bartolommeo to recommence painting. However this may be, it is certain that when Bernardo del Bianco, who had built a beautiful chapel in the Badia from Rovezzano's designs, wished for an altar-piece worthy of its beauty, which he felt no hand could execute so well as that of the Frate—he yielded to persuasion, and the Vision of S. Bernard was begun. The contract is dated 18th November, 1504; a part payment of sixty florins in gold was made 16th of June, 1507. [Footnote: Padre Marchese, Memorie, iii. vol. ii. p. 594.]
This picture, now in the Belle Arti of Florence, is so much injured by re-painting that some parts seem even crude. The saint is on his knees writing, while the vision of the Virgin and Child stands poised in air before him; she inspires his pen, and the infant Christ gives His blessing on the work. There is great spirituality and ecstasy in St. Bernard's face, his white robe contrasts well with two saints behind him, which carry out Fra Bartolommeo's favourite triangular grouping, and with a rich harmony of colour balance his white robe.
The Virgin is drawn with great nobility and grace, her drapery admirably majestic, yet airy, and a sweet, infantile playfulness renders the Child charming. The angels beneath the Virgin's feet are lovely, but the group of seraphs behind are the least pleasing of all. They are of the earth, earthy, and seem reminiscences of the Florentine maidens the artist met in the streets. Possibly this is the part most injured by the restorer's hand. The colouring of the two saints behind S. Bernard-one in a green robe with bronze-gold shades, and the other blue and orange-is very suggestive of Andrea del Sarto, and seems to render probable Rosini's assertion that the Frate "taught the first steps of this difficult career to that artist who alone was called 'senz' errori.'"
Having once retaken the brush, Fra Bartolommeo recovered his former skill and fame; a beautiful specimen of this period is the Meeting of Christ with the Disciples of Emmaus (1506), a fresco in a lunette over the door of the refectory at S. Marco; in which he combines a richness of colouring rarely obtained in fresco, with a drawing which is almost perfect. Fra Niccolo della Magna, who was prior in that year, and left in 1507 to become Archbishop of Capua, sat for one of the saints. Contemporory with this may be dated also the figure of the Virgin, painted for Agnolo Doni, now in the Corsini gallery in Rome. Giovanni de' Medici also gave him a commission.
Meanwhile the S. Bernard was not paid for. Fra Bartolommeo priced it at 200 ducats, and the convent being the gainer by his works, took his own valuation. Bernardo offered only eighty ducats; the Frati were indignant, and called in the Abbot of the Badia as umpire; he being unable to move Bernardo, retired from office; then a council of friends was resolved on, in which Mariotto was for the painter, and Lorenzo de Credi for the purchaser; but this also failed.
It was next proposed to submit the question to the Guild of Druggists (arte degli speziali), which included at that time also doctors and painters; but the convent, refusing lay judgment, took the offer of Francesco Magalotti, a relative of Bernardo, who priced it at 100 ducats, and the monks had to be satisfied. The dispute ended July 17th, 1507. [Footnote: Rosini, Storia della Pittura, chap, xxvii. p. 245, and Padre Marchese, Memorie, &c., vol. ii. pp. 42 to 45.]
All writers agree as to the fact of Fra Bartolommeo's friendship with Raphael, but very few are decided as to its date. Raphael was in Florence in 1504, but then Fra Bartolommeo had not re-commenced painting, and would have no works in the convent to excite his admiration of the colouring. Padre Marchese, following Rosini and Padre Luigi Pungeleoni, asserts that this intimacy was during Raphael's second visit in 1506, when he might have seen the newly-finished fresco of The Disciples at Emmaus. It is undoubted that their intercourse was beneficial to both. Raphael studied anew Leonardo's principles of colour under Fra Bartolommeo's interpretation of them, and the Frate improved his knowledge of perspective and harmony of composition. It is said they worked together at some pictures, of which one is in France, and another at Milan; but there is not sufficient evidence to prove this.
It is also thought that Fra Bartolommeo helped in the composition of Raphael's famous Madonna del Baldacchino, which is truly very much in his style.
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.
His namesake, Baccio di Monte Lupo, a sculptor who had fled from Florence after the death of Savonarola, and who had fought side by side with Baccio in the siege of S. Mark's church, was in Venice at that time, working on the tomb of Benedetto da Pesaro in the church of the Frati, and he was only too delighted to show the beauties of the Queen of the Adriatic to an artistic mind. Tintoretto was not yet born; Titian was only just rising into fame, though his style had not yet become what it was after Giorgione's influence; but Fra Bartolommeo must have found much that was sympathetic in the exquisite works of Giovanni Bellini and his school, and much to admire in the glorious colouring of Giorgione.
Father Dalzano, the vicar of the monastery of S. Peter Martyr at Murano, gave the Florentine monk a commission for a picture of the value of seventy or 100 ducats. Not having time to paint this during his stay, he promised to execute it on his return to Florence, and the vicar paid him in advance twenty-eight ducats in money and colours; the rest was to be raised by the sale of some MS. letters from S. Catherine of Siena, which a friend of Father Dalzano near Florence held in possession.
Fra Bartolommeo, having brought home from the Venetian school a new impulse for painting, and wishing to diffuse the religious influence of art more widely, desired to enlarge his atelier and school at San Marco. His only assistants in the convent were Fra Paolino of Pistoja, and one or two miniaturists, who were only good at missals. Fra Paolino (born 1490) took the vows at a very early age, and was removed to Florence from Prato with Fra Bartolommeo. He was the son of a painter, Bernardino di Antonio, but though he learned the first principles from him, his real art was imbibed from the Frate, under whom, together with Mariotto, he worked for years.
But this youthful scholar was not enough for Fra Bartolommeo's new energies. He pined for his old friend, Mariotto, who could follow out his designs in his own style so closely, that an unpractised eye could not see the difference of hand; and such was his influence on the rulers of the order, that they allowed a most unique partnership to be entered into.
The parties were, Albertinelli on one side, and the convent and Fra Bartolommeo on the other. The partners to provide the expenses, and the profits to be divided between the convent and Mariotto; the vow of poverty not allowing Fra Bartolommeo as an individual any personal share. This began in 1509 and lasted till 1512. The inventory of the profits and the division made when the partnership was dissolved, given entire by Padre Marchese, [Footnote: Padre Marchese, Memorie, &c., vol. ii.] are very interesting. The two artists had separate monograms to distinguish the pictures which were specially their own, besides which the monk signed his with the touching petition, "orate pro pictore," his friend merely Latinising his name; the works painted together were signed by the combined monograms. Before setting a hand to anything else, the Frate fulfilled his engagement to the Venetian prior, for whom he painted the Eternal in Heaven, surrounded by saints and angels; but of this we will speak later.
ALBERTINELLI IN THE WORLD. A.D. 1501-1510.
During the interval between the second and third partnership of this incongruous pair of friends, the life of Albertinelli had been very different from that of the Frate. So distressed was he at losing Baccio that he was quite wild for a time. His passions being unruled, that of grief took entire possession of him. In his despair he vowed to give up painting; he declared that he would also become a monk, if it were not that he now hated them more than ever; besides, he was a Pallesco, and could not desert his party.
After a time, however, he calmed down, and, looking on his friend's unfinished fresco of the Last Judgment as a legacy from him, began to work at it as a kind of obligation till the occupation wove its own charm, and he steadily devoted himself to art again, much to the satisfaction of good Gerozzi Dini, who was in great perturbation, and declared there was not another hand but his in Florence which could finish it; and also to the relief of Fra Bartolommeo himself, who, having received money on account, was troubled in conscience lest it should remain unfinished. There remained only some figures to put in the terrestrial group, all the celestial portions having been finished by the Frate; but they are very well drawn figures, with a good deal of expression in them. Several are likenesses, amongst whom are Dini and his wife, Bugiardini, the painter's pupil, and himself. Most of these are now destroyed by the effects of damp.
Mariotto left Fra Bartolommeo's house in S. Pier Gattolini, and took a room in Gualfonda—now Via Val Fonda—a street leading towards the fortress, built by the Grand Duke Cosimo on the north of the city; and here in time quite a school grew up under his tuition. Giuliano Bugiardini was his head assistant rather than pupil; Francia Bigio, then a boy, Visino, who afterwards went to Hungary, and Innocenzio da Nicola, besides Piero, Baccio's brother, were all scholars. Albertinelli's Bottega in Val Fonda gave some noble paintings to the world, works independently his own, though Fra Bartolommeo's influence is traceable in most of them. The finest of these is the Salutation, dated 1503—ordered for the Church of S. Martino, and now the gem of the hall of the Old Masters in the Uffizi Gallery—a work which alone has been able to mark him for all time as a great master.
So simple is the subject, and yet so grand the proportions, and in the figures there is such majesty of maternity and dignity of womanhood! A decorated portico, with the heavens behind it, forms the background to the two noble women, in one of whom is expressed the gracious sympathy of an elder matron with the awful, mysterious joy of the younger.
The colouring, perfectly harmonised, is the most masterly blending of a subdued tone with soft yet brilliant and shows a deep study of the method of Leonardo.
The predella has an Annunciation, Nativity, and Circumcision; all showing the same able style, but more injured by time than the picture.
Another charming painting of this period is the Nativity at the Pitti, a round, on panel. The Madonna is not quite so noble as that of the Salutation, but the limbs of the child are beautifully rounded. There is a pretty group of three angels singing in the sky; the landscape is as minute in detail as those his old fellow-pupil Piero used to paint in Cosimo's studio.
In 1504-5 Fra Bartolommeo called upon him for a deed of friendship, which proves that, whatever biographers (building up theories on a word or two in Vasari) may say of his want of steadiness, the friend who knew him best had supreme trust in him. Santi Pagnini, having been removed to Siena as prior, Fra Bartolommeo made Mariotto guardian and instructor of his young brother Piero, signing a contract that Mariotto was to have the use and management of all estates and possessions of Piero, which included several poderi in the country, as well as the house at the Porta Romana (S. Pier Gattolini). In return Albertinelli was to keep Piero in his house, teach, clothe, and provide for him, not, however, being obliged to give him more than "sette (seven) soldi" a month. Albertinelli was also to have a mass said yearly in the Church of S. Pier Gattolini for the soul of Paolo the muleteer, and to use two pounds of wax candles thereat. [Footnote: Padre Marchese, Memorie, vol. ii. pp. 36, 37.] The contract was signed from 1st January, 1505, and was to last till 1st January, 1511. It appears that this brother Piero was a great trouble to the Frate, being of a bizarre disposition, and addicted to squandering money; he sold some possessions for much less than their worth, [Footnote: Private communication from Sig. G. Milanesi.] which probably accounts for the singular contract of guardianship. He did not show enough talent to become a painter, and took priests' orders later.
About this time Fra Bartolommeo recommenced work, and while he was painting the triptych for Donatello's Madonna (the miniature Nativity and Circumcision in the Uffizi), Albertinelli was at work in the convent of the Certosa, at a Crucifixion in fresco. The painting is extant in the chapterhouse, and is a very fair and unrestored specimen of his best style. The Virgin and Magdalen are very purely conceived figures; the idea of the angels gathering the blood falling from the wounded hands of the crucified Saviour is very tender; there is a great brightness of colouring, and a greenish landscape almost Peruginesque in feeling. Some of his pupils worked with him at the Certosa, and nearly brought their master into trouble.
They were not more content with convent fare than was Davide Ghirlandajo, when the only delicacy supplied him at Vallombrosa was cheese; and to revenge themselves, they stole round the cloister after the circular sliding panels by which the rations were sent into the monks' cells were filled, and feasted on the meals made ready for the good brothers. Great confusion ensued in the convent, the monks accusing each other of the theft; but when they found out the real culprits, they made a compromise, promising double rations if the artists would hasten their work and leave them their daily dole in peace.
The fresco is dated 1506. The same year produced the fine picture now in the Louvre, which was painted for the church of S. Trinita on the commission of Zanobio del Maestro.
The Madonna, stands on a pedestal, with S. Jerome and S. Zenobio in front, while episodes from their lives are brought in like distant echoes in the background. [Footnote: S. Zenobio was the first bishop of Florence, and is the patron saint of that city.]
The nuns of S. Giuliano employed him to paint two pictures, both of which are now in the Belle Arti. One is an altarpiece; the Madonna enthroned, with the Divine Child in her arms. Era Bartolommeo's idea of an angel-sustained canopy is here, but the angels hold it up from the outside instead of the inside. Before her are S. John the Baptist, S. Julian, S. Nicholas, and S. Dominic. The S. Julian has a great similarity to the S. Michael of Perugino, and the S. John, by its good modelling, shows the result of his studies from the antique in the Medici garden.
For the same church he did the curious conventional painting of the Trinity on a gold ground. The subject is inartistic, because unapproachable; the attempt to paint that which is a deep spiritual mystery degrades both the art and the subject; the latter because it lowers it to human grasp, the former because it shows its powerlessness to shadow forth the infinite. There is beautiful painting in the heads of the angels, at the foot of the Cross, but the brilliancy of the gold ground is overpowering to the colours, albeit he has balanced it by reproducing Cosimo Roselli's red-winged cherubs. Nothing but Fra Angelico's delicate tints can bear such a background. No doubt Piero, Baccio's brother, helped to lay on this gold, for one of the stipulations in the contract with Mariotto was that he was to "metter d' oro ed altre cose di mazoneria" (to put on gold and other articles of emblazonment).
It has been a great subject of conjecture at what part of his life Albertinelli took the rash step of throwing up his art and opening a tavern at Porta S. Gallo. Some say it was in his despair at Fra Bartolommeo having taken the vows, but this is disproved by his having at that time finished the Last Judgment, and taken pupils in Val Fonda. Others assert that it was at the breaking up of the last partnership in 1513, but there is no hiatus in his work at that time, existing paintings being dated in 1513 and the following years till his death, three years after.
Vasari, though not to be depended on in regard to dates—chronology not being his forte—is generally right in the gossip and stories of the lives near his own time, and it is by collateral evidence from his pages that we are able to fix with more certainty 1508 or 1509 as the time of this episode in Albertinelli's life. In 1507 we find him as an artist helping to value his friend's picture, and mediating between the convent and Bernardo del Bianco. [Footnote: Crowe and Cavalcaselle, vol. iii. chap. xvii. p. 544.] Now, in the 'Life of Andrea del Sarto,' we read that Francia Bigio, Albertinelli's pupil, made the acquaintance of Andrea while studying the Cartoons in the Hall of the Council (this was from 1506 to 1508), and as their friendship increased, Andrea confided to Francia Bigio that he could no longer endure the eccentricities of Piero di Cosimo, and determined to seek a home for himself, and that Francia Bigio being also alone—his master Mariotto Albertinelli having abandoned the art of painting—they determined to share a studio and rooms. [Footnote: Vasari, vol. iii. p. 182.] The first works the partners undertook were the frescoes of the Scalzo and the Servi, which were begun in 1509. Thus the date is tolerably certain, especially as a gap occurs in Albertinelli's works at this time.
Sig. Gaetano Milanesi's researches in the Archives have thrown a new light on Mariotto's motives, which were not entirely connected with art; it was not that he was discouraged by adverse criticism, nor wholly that, as time divided him from his friend, he felt he could produce no great work away from his influence, but it was partly that he had married a wife named Antonia, whose father kept an inn at S. Gallo. It is possible the tavern came to him by way of dot, and the above reasons making him discontented with art for a time, might have induced him to carry on the business himself. Sig. Milanesi says a document exists of a contract in which Mariotto's name is connected with a tavern, but that he has never been able to retrace it since the first time he found it. It is his opinion that the whole story arose from the fact of the wife's family possessing this wine shop, and his connection with it in that way.
But though Albertinelli passed off his pseudo-hostdom with bravado, talking very wittily about it, the artistic vein was too strong within him to be subdued; he soon gave up the flask and returned to the brush, for in 1509, when his quondam pupil, Francia Bigio, was busy at the Servi, we again find Mariotto's hand in a painting of the Madonna. The Virgin, holding a pomegranate in her hand, supports with the other the Child, who stands on a parapet, and clings to the bosom of his mother's dress for support, in a truly natural way; the infant Baptist stands by. The painting, signed, and dated 1509, is in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, but has been injured by repainting. In spite of this, Messrs. Crowe and Cavalcaselle believe they perceive Bugiardini's hand in it.
In 1510 Albertinelli began one of his masterpieces, the Annunciation for the company of S. Zenobio, now in the Belle Arti. All his zeal for art was reawakened, he flung himself con amore into this work, which, though in oil on panel, was painted on the spot where it was intended to be placed, that the lights might be managed with the best effect. He was imbued with Leonardo da Vinci's principle, that the greatest relief and force are to be combined with softness, and wishing to bring this combination to a perfection which never before had been reached, he depended greatly on the natural light to further his design. [Footnote: Vasari, vol. ii. p. 469.]
The picture, although a great work of art, and the most laboured of all his paintings, failed to satisfy the artist. He tried various experiments, painting in and painting out, but never reaching his own ideal. According to Leonardo, he was proving himself a good artist, one of his principles being, "when his (an artist's) knowledge and light surpass his work so that he is not satisfied with himself or his endeavours, it is a happy omen." [Footnote: Leonardo da Vinci, Treatise on Painting.]
The work as it stands is a noble one, though darkened by time having brought out the black pigments used in the shades. The background is an intricate piece of architecture with vaulted roof, showing that he too had profited by Raphael's instructions in perspective to Fra Bartolommeo.
The Virgin is a tender sweet figure; indeed no artist has given more gracious dignity to womanhood than Albertinelli, although his detractors say his life showed no great respect for it. Above, the Almighty is seen in a yellow light with a circle of angels and seraphs around. It is strange how the realistic painters stopped at nothing, not even the representation of the eternal in a human form. Is not this the reason why art ceased about this time to be the interpreter of religion, and found its true mission in being the interpreter of nature? Who can draw one soul? How much more impossible then to depict the incomprehensible soul in which all others have their being? The utmost we can do is to give the indication of the spirit in the expression of a face, and that so imperfectly that not two beholders read it alike. Study Perugino and Raphael, see how they raise human nature and etherealize it till we see the divinity of soul in the faces of their saints and martyrs. But the moment they try to depict the Almighty, or even his angels, they fall at once below humanity.
But to return to the Annunciation of Albertinelli. His impetuous temper betrayed him even here; he fell into a dispute with his patrons, who refused to pay the price he asked. The usual "trial by his peers" was resorted to, Perugino, Granacci, and Ridolfo Ghirlandajo were called into council to value it according to its merits.
On completing this picture the events we have related in the last chapter took place, Fra Bartolommeo returned from Venice with his enterprise renewed, and the convent partnership was commenced.
CONVENT PARTNERSHIP. A.D. 1510—1513.
We now come to the studio of S. Marco, where the two friends, who had dreamed together as boys, and worked together as youths, now laboured jointly as men, bringing to light some of the finest works of art that remain to us. During these three years Albertinelli's star seems merged in that of his senior, his hand is to be recognised in the lower parts of a few altarpieces; but it is always difficult to distinguish the two styles.
It was a very busy atelier, for they had many patrons. Bugiardini was still Mariotto's head assistant, and Fra Paolino, and one or two other monks, worked under Fra Bartolommeo, besides pupils of both, among whom were Gabriele Rustici and Benedetto Cianfanini.
The studio was on the part of the convent between the cloister and Via del Maglio, [Footnote: Padre Marchese, Memorie, vol. ii. p. 69.] and we can quite picture its interior. There stands the lay figure on which Fra Bartolommeo draped the garments that take such majestic folds in his works; [Footnote: Fra Bartolommeo was the inventor of the jointed lay figure.] there are several casts and models in different parts of the room; grand cartoons in charcoal hang on the walls, like those we see to this day in the Uffizi and Belle Arti. So many of these masterly sketches are the Frate's and so few are Mariotto's that we may presume the former was in most instances the designer. And to what perfection he carried design! Not a figure was drawn except its lines harmonised with the geometric rhythm in the artist's mind. His groups fall by nature into kaleidoscopic figures of circles, triangles, ellipses, crosses, &c. Not a cartoon was sketched in which the lights and shadows were not as gradated and finished as a painting, although they were merely drawn with charcoal. The following was the method of work in the "bottega." The panels were prepared with a coating of plaster of Paris, over which, when dry, a coat of under colour, ground in oil, was passed. The preparing of the panels fell to the work of one of the monk scholars, Fra Andrea.[Footnote: The books of the convent have a note of payment to Fra Bartolommeo for 20th March, 1512, "per parte di lavoro di Fra Andrea converse per mettere d'oro, et ingessare alle tavole nella bottega in diversi lavori" (Padre Marchese, Memorie, lib. ii. chap. in. p. 70).] Then the master made his sketch in white, or "sgraffito" (i.e. graven on the plaster), as in the architectural lines of the pictures of patron saints in the Uffizi, and the Marriage of S. Catherine in the Pitti Palace; he also put in the shadows in monochrome. But the assistants, who were skilled artists, were called to put broad level tints of local colour on the buildings, &c., the master himself finishing the faces. No doubt Albertinelli was often deputed to the study of the lay figure and its drapery. Where he assisted, the monogram, a cross with two rings and the joint names, marked the work, as en a panel of 1510 in Vienna, and another at Geneva.
Fra Bartolommeo only imitated Leonardo in his intense force and soft gradations; the general thinness of colour is opposed to his system. He followed him, however, in his method of painting his shadows with the brush, instead of "hatching" them; he used the same yellowish ground, and "sfumato," [Footnote: Eastlake's Materials for a History of Oil Painting, vol. ii. chap. iv.] i.e. the imperceptible softening of the transition in half-lights and shadows; it was effected by glazes, and is not adapted to a thin substance. The great mistake in Fra Bartolommeo's system was the preparing his paintings like cartoons, and using asphaltum or lamp-black for outlines and shadows; this in process of time destroys the super-colour, and gives a general blackness to the painting.
The same kind of talk went on here as in modern studios. When the frame-maker came, Fra Bartolommeo would be vexed to see how much of his work was hidden beneath the massive cornice, and would vow to dispense with frames altogether, which he did in his S. Sebastian and S. Mark, by painting an architectural niche round the subject like a carving in relief.
The first work begun at the convent studio was the picture for Father Dalgano of Venice, the subject of which is the Eternal Father in Heaven, surrounded by seraphs and angels. Perhaps in this we have the source of the motive of Albertinelli's Annunciation. The colouring is more brilliant than any of the Frate's works before his visit to Venice. Vasari says that in this picture Giorgione himself could not have surpassed him in brilliancy. The saints, although nearly level with the ground, are given celestial rank by the cherubs and clouds below them. Fra Bartolommeo was dissatisfied with his angels, which seemed merely lovely children, and seeking other forms, he thought to picture them better under shapes which at a distance seem only clouds, but nearer are full of angels' faces, as in the S. Bernard. But this idea, not having aesthetic beauty, was also abandoned. [Footnote: Padre Marchese, I Puristi ed Accademici.]
The monks of S. Pietro at Murano did not hasten to claim their picture, but sent two friars to negotiate about the price; they failed to agree, and the work is now in the Church of S. Romano in Lucca.
Lucca has another exquisite picture of the same year in the Cathedral of S. Martino, a Madonna and Child—a lovely ideal of joyful infancy—beneath a veil suspended above her head by two angels. S. John Baptist and S. Stephen support this airy composition like pillars, their figures showing in strong relief against the dark shades; the whole picture is intensely soft, and yet the outlines are perfectly clear. This is valued at sixty ducats in the Libri di San Marco.
Next followed the Virgin and Child with four Saints, in S. Marco, which is so fine that it has been taken for a Raphael, although, owing to the use of lamp-black, it has now become very much darkened.
The Holy Family which he painted for Filippo di Averardo Salviati, and which is now in Earl Cowper's collection at Panshanger, is an almost Raphaelesque work, and attains the greatest excellence in art. The composition is his favourite triangle, touched in with the flowing lines of the mother seated on the ground with the two children before her. S. Joseph is in the background. The greatest softness of flesh tints must have been perceptible when new, for, "in spite of the abrasions produced by time, the delicate tones brought out by transparent glazes fused one over another are apparent." The landscape with an echo subject of the flight into Egypt is thought by Crowe and Cavalcaselle to be by Albertinelli.
In 1510 the partners had a large order from Giuliano da Gagliano, who, on the 2nd November, 1510, and 14th January, 1511, paid, in two rates, the sum of 154 ducats. The picture, which is Fra Bartolommeo's own painting, unfortunately cannot be traced.
In 1511 a long list of works are enumerated—a Nativity, valued two ducats, a Christ bearing the Cross, and an Annunciation, sold to the Gonfaloniere for six ducats—pictures which are dispersed in England, Pavia, &c.; but the masterpiece of the time is the Marriage of S. Catherine, now in the Louvre. The Florentine government bought it for 300 ducats in 1512, to present to Jacques Hurault, Bishop of Autun, who came to Florence as envoy of Louis XII. He left it to his cathedral at Autun, from whence, at the Revolution, it passed to the Louvre. [Footnote: Padre Marchese, Memorie, lib. iii. ch. iv. p. 77. Crowe and Cavalcaselle, History of Painting, vol. iii. chap. xiii. p. 452.] Before it was sent away, Fra Bartolommeo made a replica of it, which is now in the Pitti Palace. There is his favourite canopy supported by angels; in this case they are beautifully foreshortened. The Virgin is seated on a pedestal, holding by one arm an exquisitely moulded child Jesus of about four years old, who is espousing S. Catherine of Siena, kneeling at His feet on the left. A semicircle of saints group on each side of the Virgin, and two angels, with musical instruments, are at her feet; the upturned face of one is exquisitely foreshortened. The S. George in armour is a powerful figure; and in S. Bartholomew, on the left, is the same grand feeling which he afterwards brought to perfection in S. Mark. The grace of the Virgin's figure is not to be surpassed; if Raphael's Madonnas have more sentiment, this has more dignified grace. He has remembered Leonardo's precept, "that the two figures of a group should not look the same way"; the contrast of the flowing lines in these two forms is very lovely. The same contrast of lines, and yet balance of form, is carried out in the two S. Catherines who form the pyramid on each side of her, and in the varied characters of the encircling group of saints. The deleterious use of lampblack has spoiled the colouring; it, moreover, hangs in a bad light at the Pitti Palace.
The original subject at the Louvre differs only in a few particulars from this—the Virgin's hand is on the child's head instead of his arm, and there are trifling differences in the grouping of the saints, the semicircle being more rigidly kept. In this the flesh is thin and uncracked, seeming imbedded in the surrounding colours; the lake draperies are laid so thinly on the light ground, that the sketch can be seen through the colour. [Footnote: Eastlake, Materials for a History of Oil Painting, vol. ii. chap. iv. Crowe and Cavalcaselle speak of the two paintings as unconnected with each other, and mention the Pitti one as having unaccountably returned there after having been given to some bishop. Is it not possible that the gift to a bishop refers to the painting in the Louvre, and that the other is the replica spoken of by Vasari, vol. ii. p. 452?]
There is a fine painting in the church of S. Caterina of Pisa, in the chapel of the Mastiani family, Michele Mastiani having given the commission, and paid thirty ducats, in October, 1511. It represents the Madonna and Child seated on a base; the action is quiet and yet vivacious; she is supported on each side by S. Peter and S. Paul, figures as large as life, and even more noble than the ones in Rome. The colouring has been much injured by a fire in the seventeenth century, but is robust and harmonious. It is dated 1511.
On the 26th of November, 1510, Fra Bartolommeo had a commission from Pier Soderini, then Gonfaloniere, to paint a picture for the Council Hall. This was an unfortunate order; for Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci had both been commissioned, neither of them finishing the works. Fra Bartolommeo's forms the third uncompleted painting; it exists still in the form of a half prepared picture, the design being only shadowed in monochrome, and this in spite of the payment on account of 100 gold ducats in October, 1513. [Footnote: See Padre Marchese, Memorie, documenti 5 and 6, vol ii. p. 603.] The reason of this is difficult to assign, but it might lie in the fact that in 1512 Pier Soderini was deposed and exiled by Giuliano de' Medici, who assumed the government. Another reason may have been the failure of Fra Bartolommeo's health after his journey to Rome.
In 1512 Santi Pagnini came back from Siena as prior of S. Marco, and he having no love for Albertinelli, and perhaps a too jealous affection for the artist Monk, caused the partnership to be dissolved, much to Mariotto's sorrow. The stock, of which a full list is given by Padre Marchese, was divided, each taking the pictures in which they had most to do. The properties—amongst which were the lay figures, easels, casts, sketches, blocks of porphyry to grind colours on, &c. [Footnote: Padre Marchese, vol. ii. pp. 184, 185.]—were to be left for Fra Bartolommeo's use till his death, when they were to be divided between his heirs and Albertinelli.
Mariotto returned disheartened to paint in his solitary studio. A specimen of this period is the Adam and Eve, now at Castle Howard, which is said to have been sketched in by Fra Bartolommeo. Eve stands beneath the serpent-entwined tree, hesitating between the demon's temptations and Adam's persuasions; the feeling and action are perfectly expressed, the landscape is minute, but has plenty of atmosphere and good colouring. In the same collection is a Sacrifice of Abraham, in his best style. The drawing of the father, reluctantly holding his knife to the throat of the boy, is extremely true. Munich possesses a fine Annunciation. Characteristic saints support the composition on each side, the nude S. Sebastian being a markworthy study; an angel at his side presents the palm of martyrdom. The picture has suffered much from bad cleaning.
In March, 1513, Albertinelli was commissioned by the Medici to paint their arms, in honour of Leo X.'s elevation to the papacy. He made a fine allegorical circular picture, in which the arms were supported by the figures of Faith, Hope, and Charity.
CLOSE OF LIFE. A.D. 1514—1517.
It is probable that the dissolution of partnership marked the time of Fra Bartolommeo's visit to Rome. Fra Mariano Fetti, once a lay brother of S. Marco, who had gone over to the Medici after Savonarola's death, and had kept so much in favour with Pope Leo X. as to obtain the office of the Seals (del Piombo), [Footnote: An office for appending seals to papal documents. Fra Mariano Fetti was elected to it in 1514, after Bramante, the architect; Sebastiano del Piombo succeeded him.] was pleased to be considered a patron of art; and welcoming Fra Bartolommeo to Rome, he gave him a commission for two large figures of S. Peter and S. Paul for his church of S. Silvestro. The cartoons of these pictures are now in the Belle Arti of Florence; they are grand and majestic figures, admirably draped. S. Peter holds his keys and a book; S. Paul rests on his sword. In executing them in colour, he made some improvements, especially in the head and hand of S. Peter, but he did not remain long enough in Rome to finish them. "The colour of the first (S. Peter) is reddish and rather opaque, the shadows of the head being taken up afresh, and the extremities being by another painter. The head of the second (S. Paul) is corrected ... but the tone is transparent, and the execution exclusively that of Fra Bartolommeo. Whoever may have been employed on the S. Peter, we do not fancy Raphael to have been that person." This is the opinion of Crowe and Cavalcaselle, [Footnote: History of Painting, vol. iii. chap. xiii. p. 460.] who, however, seem to have little faith in any works of the Frate at Rome. Against this we have the chronicles of quaint old Vasari and Rosini; besides Baldinucci (ch. iv. p. 83), who says, "Raphael gave great testimony of his esteem when, in after years, he employed his own brush in Rome to finish a work begun by Fra Bartolommeo in that city and left imperfect."
His reason for leaving it imperfect was that of ill-health, the air of Rome not agreeing with him. It seems he brought home malaria, which never entirely left his system, the low fever returning every year, and being only mitigated by a change to mountain air. He was well enough at times to resume painting, but never in full health again. That very summer he was sent to the Hospice of Sta. Maria Maddalena in Pian di Mugnone, "dove pure non stette in ozio," [Footnote: Rosini, Storia della Pittura, chap, xxvii. p. 245.] where he did not remain idle. The Hospice stands on a high hill, just the place for Roman fever to disappear as if by magic for a time, and the patient, relieved of his lassitude, set to work with energy, aided by Fra Paolino and Fra Agostino. Many of his frescoes still remain, one of which is a beautiful Madonna, on the wall of the infirmary, which has since been sawn away from the wall and placed in the students' chapel in San Marco, Florence. [Footnote: A document of the Hospice records these paintings, and dates them 10th of July, 1514. Padre Marchese, Memorie, &c., vol. ii. p. 610.]
He returned to Florence for the winter, and with renewed vigour produced his San Sebastian, a splendid study from the nude, which shows the influence upon him of Michelangelo's paintings in Rome. The picture was hung in San Marco, but its influence not proving elevating to the sensuous minds of the Florentines, it was removed to the chapter-house, and Gio Battista della Palla, the dealer who bought so many of the best pictures of the time, purchased it to send to the King of France. Its subsequent fate is not known, although Monsieur Alaffre, of Toulouse, boasts of its possession. He says his father bought three paintings which, in the time of the Revolution, had been taken from the chapel of a royal villa near Paris [Footnote: Padre Marchese, Memorie, &c., vol. ii. note p. 119.], one of which is the S. Sebastian. In design and attitude it corresponds to the one described by Vasari, the saint being in a niche, surrounded by a double cornice. The left arm is bound; the right, with its cord hanging, is upraised in attitude of the faith, so fully expressed in the beautiful face. Three arrows are fixed in the body, which is nude except a slight veil across the loins; an angel, also nude, holds the palm to him. Connoisseurs do not think this painting equal in merit to the other works of Fra Bartolommeo. It is true it may have been overrated at the time, for the Frate's chief excellence lay in the grandeur of his drapery; the test of authenticity for a nude study from him would lie more in the colouring and handling than in form.
In the early part of 1515 Fra Bartolommeo went to pay his old friend Santi Pagnini, the Oriental scholar, a visit at the convent of San Romano, in Lucca, of which he was now prior, passing by Pistoja on February 17th to sign a contract for an altar-piece to be placed in the church of San Domenico—a commission from Messer Jacopo Panciatichi. The price was fixed at 100 gold ducats, and the subject to be the Madonna and Child, with SS. Paul, John Baptist, and Sebastian. On his arrival at Lucca he was soon busy with his great work, the Madonna della Misericordia, for the church of San Romano. The composition of this is full and harmonious. A populace of all ages and conditions, grouped around the throne of the Madonna, beg her prayers; she, standing up, seems to gather all their supplications in her hands and offer them up to heaven, from which, as a vision, Christ appears from a mass of clouds in act of benediction. Amongst the crowd of supplicants are some exquisite groups. Sublime inspiration and powerful expression are shown in the whole work. On his return he stayed again at Pistoja, where he painted a fresco of a Madonna on a wall of the convent of San Domenico; this, which has since been sawn from the wall, is at present in the church of the same convent, and though much injured, is a very light and tender bit of colouring and expression. It would seem that the altar-piece for the same church, spoken of above, was never finished, as no traces of it are to be found.
In October, 1515, we again find him at Pian di Mugnone; no doubt the summer heats had induced a return of his fever. Here, again improving in health, he painted a charming Annunciation in fresco, full of life and eagerness on the part of the angel, and joy on the Virgin. He did not remain long, for before the end of the autumn he returned to visit the home of his youth and see his paternal uncle, Giusto, at Lastruccio, near Prato. We can imagine the meeting between him and his relatives, and how the little Paolo, son of Vito, being told to guess who he was, said, "Bis Zio Bartolommeo," [Footnote: Padre Marchese, Memorie, &c., vol. ii. chap. vii. pp. 139, 140.] for which he was much applauded. And when all the country relatives hoped to see him again soon, how the Frate said that would be uncertain, because the King of France had sent for him, and with what awe and family pride they would have looked at him! But instead of going to France for the glory of art, he was returning to Florence to sorrow. His life-long friend, Mariotto Albertinelli, had been brought home on a litter from La Quercia, near Viterbo, and now lay on his death-bed; and what his life had lacked in religion, the prayers of his friend would go far to atone for at his death.