Baccio della Porta, called Fra Bartolommeo was a Dominican friar who became the leading painter in Florence between the departure of Raphael (1483–1520) for Rome and the rise of Andrea del Sarto (1486–1530). His paintings are distinguished by an aulic nobility and grandeur, intensified by smoky Leonardesque chiaroscuro.
The artist trained under Piero di Cosimo (1462–1522) and his early Adoration of the child in the Borghese gallery is in the essentially late quattrocento style of Piero di Cosimo and the more Leonardesque Lorenzo di Credi (1459-1537). After falling under the influence of the ascetic and polemical reformer Savonarola he renounced painting for a few years but started up again in 1504 with the Vision of St Bernard (Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence). This is now in the high renaissance manner of Raphael and Leonardo, with a more limited and shaded palette and more supple and varied figures, though it retains a linearity left over from the later work of Botticelli.
In 1508 Fra Bartolomeo moved to Venice (as a monk he felt obliged to go entirely on foot) making some beautiful and economically penned landscape drawings on the journey. While in Venice he painted a God the Father with Saints Mary Magdalene and Catherine of Siena which he brought back to Lucca in Tuscany where it remains. This shows the influence of the late Bellini (1430–1516) in the clear brighter colors and a greater purity of contour and atmosphere, giving the widely spaced figures a greater physical presence. His Mystic Marriage of St Catherine (musée du Louvre, Paris) of 1511 has more rhetorical poses, a trend that was to characterize other more complex altarpieces of this period and shows the impact of Bellini in the semicircular niche behind the Virgin. In 1513 the artist went briefly to Rome. His work on his return to Florence reflects his fresh contact with Raphael and Michelangelo (1475–1564) in its greater monumentality, notably the Christ and Four saints and the massive single figure of St Mark in the Pitti Palace. The Presentation in the Temple in Vienna (1516) is more colorful and less shaded, an accommodation to the work of the new star in Florence Andrea del Sarto. Fra Bartolommeo worked closely for many years with Mariotto Albertinelli (1474–1515). They shared a workshop and many paintings by Fra Bartolommeo are now thought to have been painted with Albertinelli's assistance.
Top Auction Results for Fra Bartolommeo
The Madonna and Child
Sold for $12,962,500
New York, Christie’s, 30 January 2013, Renaissance, lot 128
Saint Jerome in the wilderness
Sold for $4,898,500
New York, Sotheby’s, 26 January 2012, Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture, lot 22
The Madonna and Child in a landscape
Sold for £2,169,250 ($3,532,980)
London, Christie’s, 7 July 2009, Old Masters & 19th Century Art Evening Sale, lot 15