Good Essay On “The Rest On The Flight Into Egypt With ST. John The Baptist” By Fra Bartolommeo
Fra Bartolommeo’s The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with John the Baptist was painted during the High Renaissance era in Florence once the artist returned home from Venice. This piece of artwork “combines a fresh, luminous approach to landscape with the monumentality and balance of Florentine figural composition” (Gribbon 829). Indeed, many art historians consider Bartolommeo’s painting as a prototype for subsequent portrayals of the Holy Family as well as John the Baptist. Bartolommeo’s paintings mirror the artistic trends in Florentine art, which transformed from meticulously detailed realism during the fifteenth century to more idealized and rhythmic depictions that deployed simplistic compositions in the High Renaissance vein during the sixteenth century.
A master Renaissance artist, Fra Bartolommeo was born in Tuscany to a mule driver originally as Baccio della Porta and was profoundly influenced by Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican friar, who emphasized the notion that art should function as a didactic tool to portray and teach the bible to the illiterate masses (Zuffi 295). He initially worked with a local painter in the conservative workshop of Ghirlandaio. Baccio decided to become a monk when he witnessed Florence’s San Marco Convent be stormed by officials and Savonarola, the strict yet charismatic prior, get brutally coerced and dragged to prison. Indeed, Baccio became a monk in 1500 and became Fra Bartolommeo. He believed that there was little difference between art and life, so he purportedly incinerated his non-religious pieces of artwork and portrayals of nude models because he viewed them as morally bereft and sinful (“The Rest on Flight”).The major artistic influences during the nascent stages of his artistic career were Leonardo da Vinci, Piero di Cosimo, Raphael, and Domenico Ghirlandaio. Bartolommeo first achieved praise for his portrayal of small figures draped in clothing, which was an artistic tendency that many observers rendered a weakness in comparison to the other larger figures and the “more heroically proportioned forms of his Renaissance contemporaries” (“Baccio della Porta”). In response to contemporary criticism, Bartolommeo created a masterpiece that featured a behemoth depiction of Saint Mark, which hand in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Critics touted this work as proof that Bartolommeo mastered the ability to limn the human body with a grandiose presence that mimicked the style of the renowned Michelangelo. Scholars also laud Bartolommeo as the first artist “to work from the lay figure, the joint wooden model” that many professional artists and students frequently use (“Baccio della Porta”). Bartolommeo grafted various aspects of Leonardo da Vinci’s artistic style into his works, including the “smooth harmonies, spiritual feeling, and sfumato (a smoke-like haziness used to soften outlines)” into his own repertoire (“The Rest on the Flight”). Indeed, Bartolommeo made a name for himself by emphasizing the chasm between the earthly and the divine in his paintings by deploying “nondescript drapery” in the place of contemporary garb (“The Rest on the Flight”).
In an aesthetically-pleasing visual dialogue of gaze and movement, both the Virgin Mary and Joseph, seated underneath a date palm tree, elicit a sense of serenity and calmness as they sit together to rest on a seemingly early summer evening under a palm tree. They both gaze at Christ as a child who is holding onto the reed cross held by John the Baptist despite the Virgin Mary’s restraining hand (Frederickson 25). Indeed, the presence of John the Baptist in this depiction is to remind the viewer that the purpose of Jesus’ escape from Herod is to be sacrificed by crucifixion on the cross. Bartolommeo conveys various elements of the events that preceded Jesus’ trial and eventual crucifixion, known as the Christ’s Passion, in a litany of ways through this representation. The palm tree on the left side of the background alludes to the palm fronds that were present during Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem, and the pomegranate that is on the ground in the foreground in front of the Virgin Mary symbolizes the Resurrection of Jesus, or his rebirth three days after he died on the cross. This fruit prefigures the death of Christ, and the “ruined arch” functions as a trope of the dismantling of paganism and the rise of Christianity and the Church in Christ’s name and sacrifice, which the Virgin Mary personified. Towards the right portion of the background, Bartolommeo also limned Jesus’ family fleeing from the nefarious army of King Herod and the massacre of the innocents to Bethlehem. The artist shone a golden light over the city in order to accentuate the small figures of the Holy Family escaping into the mountains. Indeed, Bartolommeo’s painting underscores the ability of High Renaissance artists to both “humanize the divine and sanctify the natural” (provided image from museum). It is unequivocal that Bartolommeo depicts the beauty ideals of Florence through the Virgin Mary, whose graceful pose and comportment treated softly suggest. Indeed, the preoccupation with nature by Bartolommeo is unequivocally evident through his use of the golden light that shines from the city of Bethlehem, which is shrouded in mist. Moreover, the artist meticulously limned the natural world around the sacrosanct family, including the crispness of the palm tree as well as the texture of the feathers on the bird that is rustling on the arch (Frederickson 25). Indeed, this painting was created within an historical context for painters in which the relationship between the church and the state was complicated by sentiments wrought by modernity.
"Baccio Della Porta, Called Fra Bartolommeo | The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with St. John the Baptist (1509) | Artsy." Artsy. Web. 28 Jan. 2015. <https://www.artsy.net/artwork/baccio-della-porta-called-fra-bartolommeo-the-rest-on-the-flight-into-egypt-with-st-john-the-baptist>.
Fredericksen, Burton B. Masterpieces of Painting in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Rev. ed. Malibu, Calif.: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1988. Print.
Gribbon, Deborah. “Selected Acquisitions Made by the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995-97: Supplement.” The Burlington Magazine 139.1136(1997): 821-832. Print.
"The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with St. John the Baptist (Getty Museum)." Getty Museum. Web. 28 Jan. 2015. <http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=109413>.
Zuffi, Stefano. European Art of the Sixteenth Century. Los Angeles: J.P. Getty Museum, 2006. Print.
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