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Finding the middle way

When Raphael moved to Florence he befriended Fra Bartolommeo, a talented artist and draughtsman who had abandoned art to become a friar, and had only just taken up art again. Fra Bartolommeo represented a middle way between the innovations of Michelangelo and Leonardo - a position Raphael would occupy.

Vasari said Raphael 'associated constantly with him, wishing to paint in the manner of the friar because he liked his management and blending of colours'.

Detail from Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne, 1520-3 

When Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, decided to possess a series of masterpieces by the greatest artists in Italy, both Raphael and Fra Bartolommeo were commissioned. However, they both died before executing their paintings. Raphael was only 37. It was left to Titian to complete the commission. His great painting Bacchus and Ariadne was the result.