Filippo Lippi

Filippo Lippi / CC BY-SA

Filippo Lippi Biography

Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-1469) was born in Florence, Italy. Religious and painter considered one of the most important painters of Italian quattrocento. His work was deeply influenced by his work as a religious. Lippi was orphaned at an early age, which is why he was left in the custody of the monks of Carmen, the order in which he was subsequently ordered. During this period he was influenced by the work of Masaccio, a painter of whom he was a disciple, subsequently deepened and renewed the way traditional subjects were treated, experimented with the use of colors and the conception of space.

As a friar, he had a relationship with the nun Lucrezia Buti, which became his model. This relationship and his way of life caused him various problems. However, this did not prevent him from succeeding as a painter. Among his most outstanding works are the frescoes of the choir of the Cathedral of Spoleto and the Cathedral of Prato, as well as the Virgin and Child in the Portal of Bethlehem and the Annunciation. His work profoundly influenced Italian painters of the time like Botticelli.

Lippi lost his parents at age eight, not having anyone who could take care of him was left in the care of the monks of Carmen in Florence. During his stay in the order, he became the disciple of the renowned painter Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Mone Cassai, known as Masaccio, who at that time was considered one of the most prominent artists. His paintings were widely accepted and deeply influenced in Renaissance and religious paintings.

In the course of the first years of artistic training, the young Lippi faithfully followed the rules and bases of his teacher. However, over time he developed his own style, which was also influenced by the style of Fra Angelico; The Virgin of Humility (1430-1432) and the frescoes of the Carmine church in Florence stand out from this period.



The friar’s artistic career began in the 1430s, under the guidance of Masaccio. His first works addressed traditional religious themes, such as the Marian invocation, represented in the Virgin of Humility painting (1430-1432). In 1437, he painted Madonna Tarquinia, a work in which the influence of Donatello, Masaccio, and Flemish artists is clearly perceived, shortly thereafter he began to paint The Barbadori altarpiece (1437-1438), a work in which he approached a new form to present his paintings, overcoming the division of the characteristic tables of the triptychs of the time, getting a unified vision of the composition; This technique makes its compositions perceived as a discontinuous time in which objects or people abound, without this affecting or diminishing the beauty of the scene. In these works the artist paid special attention to detail, applying different shades and a varied color palette.

Madonna and Child

In The Barbadori altarpiece, Lippi, illustrated the sacred conversation, it shows the Virgin and the child accompanied by San Frediano and San Agustín, this scene is observed by the angels that surround the Virgin and the child. At the beginning of the 1440s, he began his most celebrated work the triptych Coronation of the Virgin, made between 1441 and 1447. In this work, a large number of characters that are presented by the artist using the technique applied in the altarpiece are appreciated.

For this same period of time, he began to make various modifications to his work, which were inspired by his search for a better composition and application of transparencies, this change was reflected in the works Virgin with the Child, the Adoration of Magis and the Vision of San Bernardo. From the 1450s, Lippi’s works were strongly influenced by the religious and serene style of Fra Angelico, this was reflected in the frescoes made in the choir of the Cathedral of Prato, in which he illustrated the Life of St. Stephen and St. John with the help of his disciple and friend Fra Diamante from Newfoundland. This work is considered the summit of his artistic career since it is perceived as the artistic maturity of the young friar.

In the course of these years, he painted the Virgin Tondo with the child with scenes from the life of the Virgin (1452), in which background images of the history of Mary, such as the birth of the Virgin, are observed. In 1456, while serving as chaplain of the convent of Saint Margarita, he decided to escape with the nun Lucrezia Buti, for whom he felt deep affection and with whom the renowned painter Filippino Lippi was born, who followed in his father’s footsteps in the religious artistic environment.

Shortly after escaping he was acquitted by Pope Pius II, which is why he was able to marry his muse and continue his career without being affected by the scandal. Between 1458 and 1465, the artist painted a series of four compositions entitled, The Virgin Worshiping the Child. In these, the Virgin’s affection towards the child is perceived, which is observed with infinite tenderness by her mother. By this same period, he painted the Feast of Herod (1460-1464), a work in which he represented the banquet, as well as the decapitation of Saint John the Baptist, whose head rests in the hands of Salome, located in the lower right corner of the painting. After a successful artistic career, Lippi died on October 8, 1469, in Spoleto, Italy.

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