Fra Bartolommeo
By Leader Scott

Presented by

Public Domain Books

PART II.

The scholars of Mariotto Albertinelli were much more important in the annals of art, the principal ones being Bugiardini, Francia Bigio, Visino, and Innocenza d’ Imola.

Giuliano Bugiardini should be called the assistant rather than the scholar of Albertinelli, being older than his master. He was born in 1471 in a suburb outside the Via Faenza, Florence, and was placed in the shop of Domenico Ghirlandajo, where his acquaintance with Michelangelo–begun in the Medici Gardens–ripened into intimacy, and he was employed by him in the Sistine Chapel. Giuliano had that happily constructed mind which, with an ineffable content in its own works, will pass through life perfectly happy in the feeling that in reaching mediocrity it has achieved success. Not only wanting talent to produce better works, he lacked also the faculty of perceiving where his own were faulty, and having a great aptitude for copying the works of others, he felt himself as great as the original artists. Michelangelo was always amused with his nave self-conceit, and kept up a friendship with him for many years. He even went so far as to sit to Bugiardini for his likeness, at the request of Ottaviano de’ Medici. Giuliano, having painted and talked nonsense for two hours, at last exclaimed, to his sitter’s great relief, “Now, Michelangelo, come and look at yourself; I have caught your very expression.” But what was Michelangelo’s horror to see himself depicted with eyes which were neither straight nor a pair! The worthy artist looked from his work to the original, and declared he could see no difference between them, on which Michelangelo, shrugging his shoulders, said, “It must be a defect of nature,” and bade his friend go on with it. This charming portrait was presented to Ottaviano de’ Medici, with that of Pope Clement VII., copied from Sebastian del Piombo, and is now in the Louvre. Bugiardini’s works always take the style of other masters. There is a Madonna in the Uffizi, and one in the Leipsic Museum, both in Leonardo’s style, with his defects exaggerated. The former is a sickly woman in a sentimental attitude, the child rather heavy, the colouring is bright and well fused; he has evidently adopted the method which he had seen Albertinelli use in his studio.

During a stay in Bologna he painted a Madonna and Saints as an altar-piece for the church of S. Francesco, besides a Marriage of S. Catherine, now in the Bologna Pinacoteca. The composition of this is not without merit; the child Jesus seated on his mother’s knees, gives the ring to S. Catherine, little S. John stands at the Virgin’s feet, S. Anthony on her left. The colouring is less pleasing, the flesh tints too red and raw.

A round picture in the Zambeccari Gallery, Bologna, shows him in Michelangelo’s style. The Virgin is reading on a wooded bank, but looks up to see the infant Christ greet the approaching S. John Baptist; this is carefully, if rather hardly, painted. The lights in the Saviour’s hair have been touched in with gold. The time of his stay in Bologna is uncertain, but in 1525 he was in Florence, and drawing designs for the Ringhiera with Andrea del Sarto. There is a document in the archives, proving that on October 5th, 1526 Bugiardini was paid twenty florins in gold for his share of the work. He obtained some rank as a portrait painter, in spite of his failure in that of Michelangelo; and had commissions from many of the celebrities of Florence. It was in original composition that his powers failed him. Messer Palla Rucellai ordered a picture from him of the Martyrdom of S. Catherine, which he began with the intention of making it a very fine work indeed. He spent several years in representing the wheels, the lightnings and fires in a sufficiently terrible aspect, but had to beg Michelangelo’s assistance in drawing the men who were to be killed by those heavenly flames; his design was to have a row of soldiers in the foreground, all knocked down in different attitudes. His friend took up the charcoal and sketched in a splendid group of agonised nude figures; but these were beyond his power to shade and colour, and Tribolo made him a set of models in clay, in the attitudes given by Michelangelo, and from these he finished the work; but the great master’s hand was never apparent in it. Bugiardini died at the age of seventy-five.

Of Francesco Bigi, commonly called Francia Bigio or Franciabigio, so much is said in the following life of Andrea del Sarto, that a slight sketch will suffice here. He was the son of Cristofano, and was born in 1482. His early studies were made in the Brancacci Chapel, and the Papal Hall–where he drew from the cartoons in 1505-6, and the studio of Mariotto Albertinelli, from which he passed to his partnership with Andrea del Sarto in 1509. Thus it is that his first style was marked by the influence of Mariotto and Fra Bartolommeo, while in his later works he approximated more to Andrea del Sarto.

Two of his early paintings were placed in the church of S. Piero Maggiore, one a Virgin and Child of great beauty. The infant clasps its arms round its mother’s neck–a charming attitude–which suggests a playful effort to hide from the young S. John, who is running towards him, by nestling closer to the dearer resting place. The picture is now in the Uffizi and has been long known as Raphael’s Madonna del Pozzo. [Footnote: Crowe and Cavalcaselle, History of Painting, vol. iii. chap. xv. p. 501.] No greater testimony to Francia Bigio’s excellence can be given than the frequency of his works being mistaken for those of Raphael, but the influence of his contemporaries was always strong upon him. The Annunciation, painted for the same church, is also described by Vasari as a carefully designed work, though somewhat feeble in manner. The angel is lightly poised in air, the Virgin kneeling before a foreshortened building. The picture was lost sight of in the demolition of the church, but Crowe and Cavalcaselle [Footnote: Crowe and Cavalcaselle, History of Painting, Vol. iii. p. 500.] believe they have discovered it in a picture at Turin, the authorship of which is avowedly doubtful. They mention, however, a celestial group of the Eternal Father in a cherub- peopled cloud, sending his blessing in the form of a dove, with a ray of glory. Surely if this be the one described by Vasari [Footnote: Vasari, vol. iii. p. 336] so minutely, he would not have omitted a part of the subject so important to the picture.

In 1509 we may presumably date the partnership with Andrea del Sarto, that being about the time when they began to work together in the Scalzo. Francia Bigio painted some frescoes in the church of S. Giobbe, behind the Servite Monastery. A Visitation was in a tabernacle at the corner of the church, and subjects from Job’s life on a pilaster within it: these have long ago disappeared. The altar-piece of the Madonna and Job, which he painted in oil for the same church, has been more fortunate, as it still exists in the Tuscan School in the Uffizi. Though much injured, it shows his earlier style. The Calumny of Apelles in the same gallery is a curious picture. It is hard and dull in colouring, the prevailing tone being a heavy drab; there are several nude figures, of doubtful forms as to beauty of drawing, the flesh is painted in a smooth glazed style, without relief or tenderness.

Francia Bigio shines more in fresco than in oil; his hardness is less apparent, and he gains in freedom and brilliance of colouring in the more congenial medium. The finest of his frescoes is, unfortunately, spoiled by his own hand, and remains as a memorial of his genius and hasty temper. I allude to the Sposalizio (A.D. 1513) in the courtyard of the Servite church, where Andrea did his series of frescoes from the life of Filippo Benizzi. The composition is grand and carefully thought out, the colouring bright and pleasing; perhaps in emulating Andrea’s luxurious style of drapery he has gone a little too far, and crowded the folds. The bridegroom is a noble figure, and shows in his face his gladness in the blossoming rod. A man in the foreground breaks a stick across his knees. The commentators of Vasari have taken this to emblematize the Roman Catholic legend of the Virgin having given rods to each of her suitors, and chosen him whose rod blossomed. Graceful women surround the Virgin, but there is perhaps a too marked sentimentality about these which suggests a striving after Raphael’s style. There is, however, a great touch of nature in a mother with a naughty child, who sits crying on the ground, much to the mother’s distress. Francia Bigio commenced this in Andrea’s absence in France, which so excited his former comrade’s emulation that he did his Visitation in great haste, to get it uncovered as soon as Francia Bigio’s. In fact, Andrea’s works were ready by the date of the annual festa of the Servites, and the monks, being anxious to uncover all the new frescoes for that day, took upon them to remove the mattings from that of Francia Bigio as well, without his permission, for he wished to give a few more finishing touches. So angry was he, on arriving in the cloister, to see a crowd of people admiring his work in what he felt to be an imperfect condition, that in an excess of rage he mounted on the scaffolding which still remained, and, seizing a hammer, beat the head of the Madonna to pieces, and ruined the nude figure breaking the rod. The monks hastened to the scene in an uproar of remonstrance, the frantic artist’s destructive hand was stayed by the bystanders, but so deep was his displeasure that he refused to restore the picture, and no other hand having touched it, the fresco remains to this day a fine work mutilated. It shows him artistically in his very best, and morally, at his worst, phase. In 1518, while Andrea was in France, the monks of the Scalzo employed Francia Bigio to fill two compartments in their pretty little cloister, where Andrea had commenced his Life of S. John Baptist. These are spoken of more at length in the life of that master, who on his return took the work again in his own hands. In 1521 Bigio competed with Andrea and Pontormo, in the Medici Villa at Poggio a Cajano; Andrea’s Csar receiving Tribute occupies one wall of the hall, and Francia Bigio’s Triumph of Cicero another. The subjects were selected by the historian, Messer Paolo Giovio, Bishop of Nocera; it only remained for the artists to make the most of the chosen themes. Francia Bigio filled his background with a careful architectural perspective, and a crowd of muscular Romans are grouped before it. This also was left unfinished at the Pope’s death, and Allori completed it in 1582. Francia Bigio, however, did many of the gilded decorations of the hall.

In the Dresden Gallery is a work, Scenes from the Life of David, signed A. S., MDXXIII., and his monogram, a painting very much in the style of Andrea del Sarto’s Life of Joseph. Reumont [Footnote: Life of Andrea del Sarto, p. 138 et seq.] claims it as the joint work of Andrea and Francia Bigio, founding his opinion on the letters A. S. before the date; but the letters mean only Anno salutis, and are used in very many of Francia Bigio’s signed paintings. He had the commission from Gio Maria Benintendi in 1523. It is one of those curious pictures which have many scenes in one–a style which militates greatly against artistic unity. On the right is David’s palace, on the left Uriah’s; David is at his door watching Bathsheba and her maidens bathing. In the centre is the siege of Rabbah; another well-draped group represents David receiving Uriah’s homage. In the foreground David gives wine to Uriah at a banquet. There is careful painting and ingenious composition, but a less finished manner of colouring than in Andrea’s Joseph, which was painted about the same time for Pier Borgherini.

Like Ridolfo Ghirlandajo, Francia Bigio fell off in his later style, partly because his ambition failed him, and also because he began to look on art as a means of livelihood–a motive which is certain death to high art.

He was especially celebrated as a portrait painter, several of his works having been attributed to Raphael. Among these are one at the Louvre and one at the Pitti Palace, both portraits of a youth in tunic and black cap, with long hair flowing over his shoulders; one in the National Gallery, formerly in Mr. Fuller Maitland’s collection; the portrait of a jeweller, dated A. S., MDXVI. in Lord Yarborough’s gallery; that in the Berlin Museum, of a man sitting at a desk, dated 1522; and the likeness of Pier Francesco de Medici at Windsor–all of which bear Francia Bigio’s monogram, often with the letters A. S. (Anno salutis) before the date. He died on January 14th, 1525.

Continue...

Foreword  •  Fra Bartolommeo. - CHAPTER I. - THOUGHTS ON THE RENAISSANCE.  •  CHAPTER II. - THE “BOTTEGA” OF COSIMO ROSELLI. - A.D. 1475-1486.  •  CHAPTER III. - THE GARDEN AND THE CLOISTER. - A.D. 1487-1495.  •  CHAPTER IV. - SAN MARCO. - A.D. 1496-1500.  •  CHAPTER V. - FRA BARTOLOMMEO IN THE CONVENT. - A.D. 1504-1509.  •  CHAPTER VI. - ALBERTINELLI IN THE WORLD. - A.D. 1501-1510.  •  CHAPTER VII. - CONVENT PARTNERSHIP. - A.D. 1510–1513.  •  CHAPTER VIII. - CLOSE OF LIFE. - A.D. 1514–1517.  •  CHAPTER IX. - PART I. - SCHOLARS OF FRA BARTOLOMMEO.  •  PART II.  •  CHAPTER X. - RIDOLFO GHIRLANDAJO. - A.D. 1483–1560.  •  Andrea D’Agnolo, - Called Andrea Del Sarto. - CHAPTER I. - YOUTH AND EARLY WORKS. - A.D. 1487-1511.  •  CHAPTER II. - THE SERVITE CLOISTER. - A.D. 1511-1512.  •  CHAPTER III. - SOCIAL LIFE AND MARRIAGE. - A.D. 1511-1516.  •  CHAPTER IV. - WORKS IN FLORENCE. - A.D. 1511-1515.  •  CHAPTER V. - GOING TO FRANCE. - A.D. 1518-1519.  •  CHAPTER VI. - ANDREA AND OTTAVIANO DE’ MEDICI. - A.D. 1521-1523.  •  CHAPTER VII. - THE PLAGUE AND THE SIEGE. - A.D. 1525-1531.  •  CHAPTER VIII. - SCHOLARS OF ANDREA DEL SARTO.

[Buy at Amazon]
Fra Bartolommeo
By Leader Scott
At Amazon