GREAT ART OF THE WORLD:

FRA FILIPPO LIPPI

 

Dear Friends,

In creating this forum, I have found the hardest task to be that of selecting the masterpieces to be presented, as it frequently implies the unpleasant decision of putting away some of the greatest artists and their works to favor others. It has been the case with Fra Angelico, possibly the most exquisite and inspired painter and frescoist of the Early Renaissance (but whose works, in my opinion, are still rather Mediaeval in their conception and execution as compared with those of some of his contemporaries), whom I opted at this release to replace with Fra Fillipo Lippi, one of my favorites painters and frescoists of that period for his sensitivity and expressiveness and, in general, for his exceptional taste and a mastery of the art that anticipated the works of his disciple Botticelli - whom he undoubtedly influenced - and the great Leonardo da Vinci.

According to the famous biographer Georgio Vasari, Lippi's life as a youth was one of adventure. He was an orphan brought up in a convent, who was persuaded by his elders to take vows (he pronounced the vows of a Carmelite monk at Sta. Maria del Carmine). He then caused a scandal by running off with a nun. Happily, the Medici family had always observed his talent and bent their powerful muscles to get the couple laicised. Later on he was abducted with some companions by the Moors on the Adriatic, and after 18 months of slavery he was freed after he painted a portrait of his owner. In 1437 Lippi returned to Florence, protected by the powerful Medicis, where he was commissioned to execute several altarpieces for convents and churches. This would be the real starting point in his career.

Lippi's majestic frescoes in the cathedrals of Spoleto and Prato gave him the opportunity to paint crowd scenes. His Madonnas and saints are holy, serene and unworldly, but his crowds are common clay, men, women and children as he saw them. Moreover, they would become more and more realistic, as a comparison of three works in the London National Gallery shows. The third of them, The Trinity and Four Saints, part of an altarpiece made for a community chapel in Pistoia ten years later, is incomparably the best one for its realism and authority, its dignity and grace. The explanation is that the first two were executed entirely in tempera, used in the traditional way, while the third was painted in egg tempera with oil as the vehicle, which accounts for its precision, depth, fluidity and sheer bravura. (From Paul Johnson, "Art: A New History".)

As always, your good feedback is much appreciated.

Thank you.

Luis Miguel Goitizolo


GREAT MASTERS OF PAINTING


Madonna with the Child and two Angels
(1)

by Fra Filippo Lippi

born c. 1406, Florence
died Oct. 8/10, 1469, Spoleto, Papal States


Profile
(2)

Florentine painter in the second generation of Renaissance artists. While exhibiting the strong influence of Masaccio (e.g., in “Madonna and Child,” 1437) and Fra Angelico (e.g., in “Coronation of the Virgin,” c. 1445), his work achieves a distinctive clarity of expression. Legend and tradition surround his unconventional life.


Fra Filippo Lippi was one of the leading painters in Renaissance Florence in the generation following Masaccio. Influenced by him in his youth, Filippo developed a linear, expressive style, which anticipated the achievements of his pupil Botticelli. Lippi was among the earliest painters indebted to Donatello. His mature works are some of the first Italian paintings to be inspired by the realistic technique (and occasionally by the compositions) of Netherlandish pioneers such as Rogier van der Weyden and Jan van Eyck. Beginning work in the late 1430s, Lippi won several important commissions for large-scale altarpieces, and in his later years he produced two fresco cycles that (as Vasari noted) had a decisive impact on 16th-century cycles. He produced some of the earliest autonomous portrait paintings of the Renaissance, and his smaller-scale Virgin and Child compositions are among the most personal and expressive of that era. Throughout most of his career he was patronized by the powerful Medici family and allied clans. The operation of his workshop remains a matter of conjecture.


Technical data
(3)

Madonna with the Child and two Angels
1465
Tempera on wood
37
3/8 x 24 3/8 inches (95 x 62 cm)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy
Added 5/15/2005


 

(1) This image is a courtesy of Art Renewal Center.

(2) Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, Grove Dictionary of Art Online (excerpt).

(3) Source: Art Renewal Center.

 


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