Porta, Baccio Della

Porta, Baccio della more generally known as Frat Bartolomeo, an Italian monastic of the Dominican order, distinguished as a painter of the Florentine school, and much noted for his intimate relation to Raffaelle and the other Umrbrian painters of his time, was born at Savignano, not far from Florence, in 1469. He was a pupil of Cosimo Roselli in Florence, and lived near the gate of S. Piero, from which circumstance his name of: Della Porta" was derived. 'We have no detailed narrative of his youthful life, except that he was early brought under Roselli's tuition, where he formed a close friendship with Mariotta Albertinelli, his associate student, and showed such natural and artistic proclivities towards "sweetness and light" that the beauty of his Madonna faces and the sunny fervor of his coloring won the approbation even of the critical Florentines. He acquired such great fame that he was commissioned to execute a fresco of The Last Judgment in the convent of S. Marco, about the time when Savonarola went to Florence to preach against the sinfulness of the city. Bartolomeo became the earnest friend of the preacher, and was so carried away by his influence that he burned all his studies and drawings of profane subjects, and those which represented nude figures. He abandoned his art, and spent his time ill the society of the enthusiast. When, at length, Savonarola was seized, tortured, and burned, Bartolomeo took the vows of a Dominican friar, and left his unfinished pictures to be completed by Albertinelli. During four years he led a most austere life, never touching his pencil. His superior finally commanded his practice of the art, and he resumed it with languor and entire want of interest. About this time Raffaelle arrived in Florence. He was then but twenty-one years old, yet was already noted as a great painter. He visited the friar's cell, and the consequence was a deep friendship between the two, to which the world owes the after works of Fra Bartolomeo. Raffaelle instructed his monastic friend in perspective, and he in turn gave new ideas of drapery to Raffaelle. Fra Bartolomeo was the first to employ lay figures in the study of drapery; he also imparted to Raffaelle his mode of coloring. The examination of the works of these painters will prove that from this time both of them produced more excellent pictures than they had done before; the friar had caught an intellectual grace from his young friend, and Raffaelle had advance in color and drapery. About 1508 Fra Bartolomeo was allowed to go to Venice, where his coloring was greatly improved, and in 1513 he went to Rome. This visit was doubtless a deep joy to him, but the beauties of what he saw so far exceeded his imaginations that he seems to have been stupefied; he made no attempt to equal or excel the artists about him, and only commenced two figures of SS. Peter and Paul, which Raffaelle finished after his return to Florence. When once more in his convent, Bartolomeo showed the benefit he had received. and executed some of his most important works, among which are a marriage of St. Catharine, now hanging in the Louvre, and the unfinished Conception of the Uffizi. But it is in his later days, when his mind had broadened and strengthened and his touch grown firm, that we find such masterpieces as the Pieth of the Pitti— the most purely beautiful Pieta ever painted; The Presentation in the Temple, at Vienna; and The Madonna della Misericordia, now at Lucca, and considered by many as his most important work. It had been said that he could do nothing grand: he now painted the St. Mark, which is in the Pitti Palace, and is so simply grand as to be compared to the remains of Grecian art. He lived only four years after going to Rome, and died at a time when his powers seemed daily increasing. His character was impressed on all his works. When Savonarola was seized, Porta hid himself and vowed that if he escaped he would become a monk. This want of courage and energy in his nature we must admit; but he was enthusiastic, devout, and loving. His saints and virgins are tender, mild, and full of sweet dignity, and if we characterized his pictures in one word, holiness is what we should use, for it is that which they most express. His boy-angels were beautifully painted, and his representations of architecture were rich and grand. His works are rare. The Louvre has two of his pictures, and the Berlin Museum one; but he is best studied in Florence, where the larger number of his works remain. See Mrs. Clement, Handbook of Plainters, Sculptors, etc., s.v.; Meehan, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, etc., of the Order of St. Dominic (Dublin, 1852, 2 vols. 12mo), vol. 2, ch. 1-8; Radcliffe, Schools and Masters of Painting (N. Y. 1877), p. 120 sq., et al.; Schlegel. Esthetic and Miscellaneous Notes, p. 7 sq.; Taine, Travels in Italy (Florence and Venice), p. 158 sq. (II. W.)

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