Thursday 14 March 2013

Fra Bartolomeo and Raphael.

Raphael, Madonna del Baldacchino, 1507-08, Oil on canvas, 276 x 224 cm, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence.

In his analysis of the Lucca altarpiece, Wind identified a fusion of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. The Lucca altarpiece has rightly been connected with Raphael’s development, especially the symbolic cluster of religion and meteorology which influenced Raphael’s own altarpieces of his Roman years.[1]  Yet, before that, Fra Bart had taken note of Raphael’s Florentine works, and it seems right for Freedberg to see Raphael’s Madonna del Baldacchino as the origin of Fra Bart’s classical cinquecento style.[2] After completing this altarpiece Raphael left town for Rome, and Fra Bart- now head of his own workshop- was established in the style he had formed from both Leonardo and Raphael, a formula he used to successfully produce unspectacular devotional altarpieces for Florentine clients. After Fra Bart visited Rome in 1514, on his return his conversation with Raphael continued, with the production of the Madonna della Misericordia which tries to match the language of Raphael’s Roman frescoes to altarpieces with awkward results. Highly dramatic, even rhetorical, it cannot carry the burden of its own ambitions and falls short of its aims. Instead of Roman painting improving Fra Bart’s art, it had shown its shortcomings. Raphael was now speaking a language that Fra Bart struggled to understand yet alone translate. 

Fra Bartolommeo, Madonna della Misericordia, 1515, Oil on canvas, Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi, Lucca.

[1] Christian K. Kleinbub, Vision and the Visionary in Raphael, Pennsylvania University Press, 2011. See my review of it at

[2] Freedberg, Painting in Italy, 85.

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