(b. 1472, Firenze, d. 1517, Pian' di Mugnone)

Vision of St Bernard with Sts Benedict and John the Evangelist

Panel, 213 x 220 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

This altarpiece is the first major public painting Fra Bartolomeo supplied after becoming a friar. It represents a poised Virgin majestically carried in from the left to right on a flotilla of angels that halts before St Bernard. The standing saints act as witnesses to the mystery unfolding before them. Two scenes in the background supplement the iconography: Francis receiving the stigmata and further up a meeting between Francis and Dominic. The altarpiece is distinguished by its bright colouristic effects, recalling much earlier precedents from the late Trecento or early Quattrocento in Fra Angelico and Lorenzo Monaco.

Fra Bartolomeo's Vision of Saint Bernard recalls Perugino's earlier treatment of the same subject. Fra Bartolommeo locates the scene out-of-doors instead of in a loggia, and he significantly expands the angelic company of the Madonna and the Christ Child.