Fra Bartolommeo and the Vision of Saint Bernard: An Examination of Savonarolan Influence
By Stephanie Tadlock
Master’s Thesis: University of Maryland, 2005
Abstract: Fra Bartolommeo was considered one of the finest High Renaissance painters from the late fifteenth-century to the beginning of the twentieth-century, but there has been a void in recent scholarship regarding his contributions to the period. A staunch supporter of Savonarola, his works are largely religious in nature. Following the taking of his vows, it is believed that Fra Bartolommeo intended to permanently retire from painting.
The Vision of Saint Bernard was the first painting executed by Fra Bartolommeo after his four-year retirement. At first glance, it is a typical depiction of a theme popular in Florence during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth-centuries. However, a reading of this image in connection with Fra Bartolommeo’s mentor Savonarola, suggests the friar decided to return to his former vocation in order to promulgate Savonarolan ideas.
Introduction: Fra Bartolommeo was regarded as one of the most important artists of the High Renaissance from the late fifteenth-century to the beginning of the twentieth-century, rivaling the reputation of contemporaries like Raphael. The nineteenth-century English poet Walter Savage Landor said he would give 1000 English pounds for Raphael’s Transfiguration but ten times that amount for Fra Bartolommeo’s St. Mark, testifying to the status of the friar at the time. However, interest in Fra Bartolommeo has waned since the early twentieth-century.