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

Madonna and Child

c. 1440
Tempera on panel, 79 x 52 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

The composition of this painting evinces the characteristic features that were to make Lippi's half-length images so appealing. Foremost among these is the intimate confrontation effected between the viewer and the sacred subjects depicted. The pictorial space is very shallow and the Madonna and Child, painted on a large scale, are pushed up against the picture plane. The presence of the Virgin is made more tangible and imposing by her cast shadow falling in soft hues against the back of the stone niche, giving physical dimensions also to the compressed space. The Virgin meets the eyes of the beholder, who must have been positioned close to the panel in the more intimate viewing circumstances of theses tabernacle images.

It is not until the Madonna and Child paintings by Raphael that we encounter such an intimate relationship established between the viewer and the sacred figures through the manipulation of pictorial space and figure disposition.