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Fra Carnevale

Marchigian, active c. 1445 - 1484

Master of the Barberini Panels; Corradini, Bartolomeo di Giovanni

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It is only recently that the long-hypothesized identification of Bartolomeo di Giovanni Corradini, called Fra Carnevale, with the author of a group of works gathered under the name "Master of the Barberini Panels," has been confirmed.[1] These paintings--a Nativity of the Virgin (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, no. 35.121) and a Presentation of the Virgin (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, no. 37.108)--became the property of Cardinal Antonio Barberini between 1631 and 1633 and were registered in the 1644 inventory of his collection in Rome under the name "Fra Carnovale" [sic]. This indication was forgotten, however, and as the hand of the author of these two paintings was recognized in other works[2] it became necessary to group them under a conventional name, at the same time attempting an identification of the painter with one of the various artists active in Urbino in the second half of the fifteenth century: Fra Carnevale, Luciano Laurana, the Master of the Carrand Triptych (alias Giovanni di Francesco), Donato Bramante, Leon Battista Alberti, or Giovanni Angelo di Antonio da Camerino.[3]

Today it is possible to conclude that the documentary information we have concerning Bartolomeo Corradini corresponds so precisely to what can be deduced from the works of the Master of the Barberini Panels as to demonstrate that they are the same person. Possibly born in Urbino, Bartolomeo is recorded as an assistant to Filippo Lippi in Florence between November 1445 and January 1446, and in fact an intervention by the author of the Barberini panels has been recognized in a work by Lippi datable to those years, the Coronation of the Virgin now in the Vatican collections.[4] After April 1449 Corradini is documented in Urbino; by this time he was a friar called Fra Bartolomeo, entrusted by his order to maintain contacts with the Florentine sculptors Maso di Bartolomeo and Luca della Robbia (whom we thus presume he knew) working for the convent of San Domenico in Urbino.[5] In June 1456, because of other commitments, Fra Bartolomeo Corradini had to withdraw from a contract with the confraternity of Corpus Domini in Urbino for an altarpiece, which was subsequently realized by Justus of Ghent. In December 1467 the artist bought a house in Urbino with the payment received from the confraternity of Santa Maria della Bella for an altarpiece; Cardinal Barberini is known to have received from the hospital of Santa Maria della Bella an old panel, which he had replaced with a new altarpiece.[6] Listed along with Laurana, Francesco di Giorgio, and others among the architects and engineers of Federico da Montefeltro's court, Fra Carnevale is recorded from 1481 to 1484 as the parish priest of San Cassiano di Cavallino, near Urbino. He was probably dead by 1488, when another priest is mentioned in the same parish. He is also recorded--with the name of Fra Carnovale--by Vasari, who says he was Bramante's master.[7]

Fra Carnevale's few surviving works reveal very fine gifts as a painter as well as an interest in classical architecture, discernible as early as his paintings of the Florentine period and exemplified by the National Gallery's Annunciation. During his activity in Urbino he was in contact not only with artists, including Laurana and Piero della Francesca, but with the humanists at the Montefeltro court. In the Barberini panels (and in the panels from a dismantled polyptych, of which elements survive in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana and the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, the Palazzo Apostolico in Loreto, and the Cini bequest in the Galleria Nazionale in Urbino), he reveals an artistic vision based on the meticulous rendering of details from nature and the observation of effects of light on color, as well as a strenuous effort to translate these observations into a sophisticated and rigorously classical idiom. [This is the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

[1] See Alessandro Conti, "Un libro antico della sagrestia di Sant'Ambrogio," Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 3d ser., 6, part 1 (1976): 105-109; Christiansen 1979, 198-201; Fert Sangiorgi, "Fra Carnevale e le tavole di Santa Maria della Bella di Urbino," Notizie di Palazzo Albani 18, no. 2 (1989): 15-21.

[2] Mainly owing to the research of Offner 1939, 205-253, and Federico Zeri, Due dipinti, la filologia e un nome: il Maestro delle Tavole Barberini, Torino, 1961; for further additions see Meiss 1961, 57-66; Peter Meller and Jeanne Hokin, "The Barberini Master as a Draughtsman?" MD 20 (1982): 239-246; Bellosi, "Fra Carnevale" 1990, 135-136; Paul Joannides, "A Portrait by Fra Carnevale," Source 8, no. 3 (year?): 7-10; Keith Christiansen, "A Drawing for Fra Carnevale," MD 31 (1993): 362-367. But see also the recent suggestion of Benati 1996 [DA?], 25-28.

[3] Identification with Fra Carnevale was proposed for the first time by Adolfo Venturi ("Nelle Pinacoteche minori d'Italia," Archivio Storico dell'Arte 6 [1893]: 416-418); the name of Luciano Laurana by August Schmarsow, Melozzo da Forlì, Berlin, 1886: 107; the Master of the Carrand Triptych by Bernard Berenson (1932, 342); Bramante by Swarzenski 1940, 90-97; Alberti by Parronchi, "Leon Battista Alberti" 1962, 280-286; while Giovanni Angelo da Camerino was proposed, with reservations, by Zeri 1961, 89-99.

[4] See Conti, "Un libro antico," and Christiansen 1979, 198-201.

[5] Charles Yriarte, Journal d'un sculpteur florentin au XVe siècle, Livre de souvenirs de Maso di Bartolommeo dit Masaccio, Paris, 1894: 58-64.

[6] See Sangiorgi, Fra Carnevale e le tavole, 15-21.

[7] Vasari, ed. Milanesi, 4 (year?): 147-148.

Artist Bibliography

Lazzari, Andrea. Dizionario storico degli illustri professori delle belle arti d'Urbino. In Giuseppe Colucci, ed. Delle Antichità picene. 32 vols. Fermo, 1796: vol. 31.
Offner, Richard. "The Barberini Panels and Their Painter." In Medieval Studies in Memory of A. Kinglsley Porter. Ed. W.R.W. Koehler. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1939: 205-253.
Battisti, Eugenio. Piero della Francesca. 2 vols. Milan, 1971: 1:503 n. 360, 514-515.
De Angelis, Laura, and Alessandro Conti. "Un libro antico della sagrestia di Sant' Ambrogio." Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 3rd ser., no. 6, pt. 1 (1976): 77-109.
Bruschi, Arnoldo. "Bartolomeo Corradini" In Dictionario biografico degli italiani 29 (1983): 332-335.
Bellosi, Luciano. "Giovanni di Francesco e l'arte fiorentina di metà Quattrocento." In Pittura di luce. Giovanni di Francesco e l'arte fiorentina di metà Quattrocento. Ed. Luciano Bellosi. Exh. cat., Casa Buonarroti, Florence. Milan, 1990: 11-45.
Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 181.

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