Fra Bartolommeo, Drapery study of two kneeling figures, a brush drawing

Florence, Italy, about AD 1500-10

This brush drawing in brown and white distemper is painted on linen coloured a dark brown. It was traditional artistic training that a clay or wooden model was covered in drapery that had been soaked in liquid clay. Left to dry, the drapery creases has a hard, sculptural quality which permits the artist to concentrate on capturing the light and shade on the folds of the material as it falls over a body. To the left a huge cloak envelops the form while to the right a single piece of drapery hangs from the body. The white distemper highlights the fall of light from above.

This technique for painting drapery was common in late fifteenth-century Florentine studios. Probably originating in the workshop of Verrocchio (1435-88), Fra Bartolommeo (1472-1517) learned this technique from either Leonardo da Vinci or Lorenzo di Credi, both of whom had worked in Verrocchio's studio.

The artist-historian Giorgio Vasari, in his biography of Fra Bartolommeo, refers to the many chiaroscuro (light and shade) drawings left in his studio at his death, which suggests their continuing importance to his work. As a Dominican friar and artist who had a workshop at the convent of San Marco, Florence, most of his work was religious in subject, in the forms of altarpieces or images of saints. Most of his drawings, therefore, were studies for figures, their draperies and other details.

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More information


N. Turner, Florentine drawings of the six, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)

F. Ames-Lewis and J. Wright, Drawing in the Italian Renaiss (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1983)

C. Fischer, Fra Bartolommeo: master draugh (Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, 1990-91)


Height: 273.000 mm
Width: 316.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1895-9-15-488



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