Battista Franco

The Baptism of Christ with Saints Bernardino of Siena and Francis (1552 - 1554)

About this artwork

This drawing is a preliminary study for the main scene in Franco’s Baptism of Christ in the Barbaro chapel in San Francesco della Vigna, Venice. Executed with a fine pen and delicate washes, the high degree of finish of this drawing suggests that he produced it during the later stages of the planning of the altarpiece. However, all of the figures underwent alterations between this sheet and the finished painting. The presence of the two Franciscan Saints (whose presence at the Baptism would have been chronologically impossible) was undoubtedly done at the request of the patron Daniele Barbaro, whose family chapel was within a Franciscan church.

Battista Franco

Battista Franco

Although born in Venice, Franco was in Rome by the time he was twenty. There he made drawings after the Antique treasures that filled the city, but he also fell under the spell of Michelangelo and made numerous drawings after the master’s work. In addition to being a fine draughtsman, Franco was also an accomplished painter and printmaker. He often produced prints of his own designs using either etching or engraving, or sometimes a combination of both. Much of his career was spent in Rome and Urbino, but around 1552 he returned to Venice where he lived for the last decade of his life. He is sometimes known by the nickname ‘Il Semolei’.