LIPPI, Fra Filippo
(b. 1406, Firenze, d. 1469, Spoleto)

Madonna and Child

Panel, 155 x 71 cm
Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence

This painting was commissioned by Cosimo de' Medici. It is still in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence.

Orphaned at a young age, Filippo Lippi was raised in the Carmelite convent of Santa Maria in Florence, where he would undoubtedly have seen Masaccio and Masolino at work on the frescoes in the Brancacci chapel. He took vows himself, but proved to be wholly unsuited to religious life. His name surfaces often in court documents. Tried for embezzlement (even tortured on the rack), he lived openly with a Carmelite nun, Lucretia Buti, who was his model and with whom he had a son -- painter Filippino Lippi. His patron Cosimo de' Medici sheltered Filippo in "protective custody" at the Medici palace, hoping to prod him into finishing tardy commissions, but the artist escaped. He was eventually allowed to leave his order and marry Lucretia, but continued to wear a monk's habit and sign his works Fra ("brother") Filippo.

Filippo's Virgin is wistful and slightly melancholy, while the infant's heavy, almost muscular form recalls Masaccio's emphatically three-dimensional figures. Masaccio had used strongly directional light to reveal the form of his figures. Filippo's Virgin and child, on the other hand, are bathed in an overall glow that prevents the modeling of the figures from overpowering the graceful and well-defined line of his composition. As Filippo grew older his reliance on line increased and Masaccio's influence lessened.