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Lives of the Great Painters
Vasari's Fra Bartolommeo and Mariotto Albertinelli


In the country of Prato, distant from Florence ten miles, at a village called Savignano, was born Bartolommeo, whose name, according to Tuscan use, was shortened into Baccio. Showing aptitude for drawing in his childhood, through the mediation of Benedetto da Maiano he was placed in Cosimo Rosselli's workshop, dwelling for many years with some of his relatives near the gate of S. Piero Gattolini, so that he was never known by any other name than Baccio della Porta. In the same workshop was Mariotto Albertinelli, who formed such a close intimacy with Baccio della Porta that they were one soul and one body, and there was such a brotherly friendship between them that, when Baccio left Cosimo to practise his art by himself as a master, Mariotto went with him, and there at the gate of S. Piero Gattolini they lived, producing many works together. But as Mariotto was not so well grounded in drawing as Baccio, he gave himself to the study of the antiquities that were Florence, the greater number and the which were in the house of the Medici garden there was full of antique fragments, the study not of Mariotto alone, but of all the sculptors and painters of his time. Mariotto profited greatly by the study of these antiquities, and took service with Madonna Alfonsina, the mother of Duke Lorenzo, who assistance. He drew Madonna life very well, and seemed to fortune by being admitted to her friendship. But in the year 1494, Piero de' Medici being banished, her aid failed him, and he returned to the house of Baccio, where he set himself to study from nature, and to imitate Baccio's works, until in a little while for Baccio's.

Baccio was much assiduous at work, quiet, goodhearted, and Godfearing. A quiet life pleased him best; he avoided all vicious habits, delighted in hearing preaching, and sought the company and grave persons. At this time Fra Savonarola from Ferrara, the famous of the order of Preaching Friars, was at and Baccio, constantly frequenting his came into close intercourse with him, and almost lived at the convent, being joined in friendship with the other friars also. Fra Girolamo preaching constantly that evil pictures and amorous books and music tempted men to evil deeds, the people were heated by his words; and at the Carnival, when it was the custom to make bonfires on the piazzas, and on the Tuesday evening to dance round them, Fra Girolamo's influence prevailed so greatly that they brought to that place pictures and sculpture, many even from the hands of great masters; and also books, lutes, and songs, and there was great destruction, especially of pictures. Baccio brought all the studies and drawings that he had made from nude figures, and Lorenzo di Credi imitated his example, and many others also who were known as Piagnoni. Also from the affection he bore to Fra Girolamo he painted his portrait, which was a most beautiful work. Afterwards it happened that the contrary party rose against Fra Girolamo to seize him and deliver him into the hands of justice. The friends of the friar, being aware of it, assembled in S. Mark's to the number of more than five hundred, and shut themselves up there, Baccio being one of them. But being indeed a man of little courage, or rather, very timid and cowardly, when he heard them attack the convent, and saw some wounded and killed, he began to be in great fear, and made a vow that if he escaped he would assume the religious habit. So when the tumult was over, and the friar was condemned to death, as historians have related, Baccio went away to Prato, and made himself a friar of S. Domenic at that place, as you will find written in the chronicles of the convent, on the 26th day of July, 1500, to the great grief of all his friends, who lamented his loss exceedingly, and chiefly because they had heard that he had made up his mind not to have anything more to do with painting.

Mariotto, losing his companion, was almost beside himself, and so strange did it seem that he could take no pleasure in if he had not always disliked friars, whom he constantly spoke against, being of the party that was contrary to the faction of Fra Girolamo, his love for Baccio would have operated so strongly that he would himself have assumed the cowl in the same convent. But Gerozzo Dini prayed him to finish a picture of the Judgment which Baccio had left unfinished, and Fra Bartolommeo entreated him also, having received money for the picture, and his conscience therefore reproaching him; so Mariotto applied himself to it, and completed it gence and earnestness that many would think it was done by one hand alone.

Afterwards Mariotto, with a his pupils, painted a picture of the crucifixion in the Certosa of Florence. But the friars not treating them in the matter of food to their taste, some of the boys who were studying with him, without Mariotto knowing anything about it, contrived to counterfeit the keys of the windows through which the friars received their pittance into their cells, and secretly, sometimes from one and sometimes from another, they stole the food. There were great complaints on the subject among the friars, for in questions of eating they are as quick to feel as others; but the boys doing it dexterously, and being supposed honest, the blame was laid on some of the friars, until at last one day the thing was found out. Then the friars, that the work might be finished, consented to give double rations to Mariotto and his scholars.

Mariotto was a restless person and fond of good living, and taking a dislike to the mental exertion necessary to painting, being also often stung by the tongues of other painters, as is their way, he resolved to give himself to a less laborious and more jovial profession, and so opened a hostelry outside the gate S. Gallo, and the tavern of the Dragon at the old bridge. This life he led for many months, saying that he had taken up an art that was without muscles, foreshortening or perspective, and what was better still, without faultfinding, and that the art that he had given up imitated flesh and blood, but made flesh and blood; in this if you had good wine you heard yourself praised, but in that every day you were blamed. But at last the low life became an annoyance to him, and, filled with remorse, he returned to painting.

After Fra Bartolommeo had been many months at Prato, he was sent by his superiors to S. Mark's at Florence, where the brethren received him gladly. And in those days Bernardo del Bianco had made a chapel in the ab, Florence, and desiring to put a picture worthy of the ornament, it came into his that Fra Bartolommeo would be the right and he set all his friends to work to obtain him. Now Fra Bartolommeo was in the convent, thinking of nothing but the holy services and his rule, although the prior had prayed him earnestly, and the friends most dear to him besought him, to paint something, and already four years had passed since he had done anything; but now, being pressed by Bernardo del Bianco, he at last began the picture of the Vision of S. Bernard.

Raffaello da Urbino came art at Florence, and taught the rules of perspective to Fra Bartolommeo; for Raffaello, being desirous to colour in the friar's manner, was always with him. Afterwards, when he heard of the great things that the graceful Raffaello and Michael Angelo were doing in Rome, Fra Bartolommeo obtained leave to go there, and being entertained by Fra Mariano del Piombo, he painted for him two pictures of S. Peter and S. Paul. But because he could not succeed there as he had done at Florence, being, as it were, overwhelmed by the ancient and modern works which he saw in such abundance, he determined to depart, leaving Raffaello to finish one of the pictures, the S. Peter, which was given to Fra Mariano, entirely retouched by Raffaello's hand. So he came back to Florence; and many having reproached him with not being able to paint the human body, he set himself to work to show he was as apt at it as any one else, and painted a S. Sebastian, which received great praise from artists. But the friars removed it from the church, and it was afterwards sent to the King of France.

Fra Bartolommeo held that it was best when you were working to have the things before you, and for the draperies and armour, and such things, he made a model of wood as large as life, with joints, and clothed it with garments, by which he accomplished great things, being able at his pleasure to keep them without being moved until he had finished his work.

While he was painting for Pietro Soderini, in the Council Hall, it happened that he had to work under a window, and the light striking upon him constantly, he was paralysed on that side, and could not move himself. He was advised, therefore, to go to the baths of S. Filippo, where he stayed a long time, but to little purpose. Fra Bartolommeo was very fond of fruit, but it was hurtful to him; and one morning, having eaten a great many figs, he was taken with a violent fever, which cut short his life in four days, at the age of forty eight. His friends, and especially the friars, mourned him much, and they gave him honourable burial in S. Mark's.

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