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

Seven Saints

Egg tempera on wood, 68 x 151 cm
National Gallery, London

An orphan placed in the friary as a child, Fra Filippo Lippi took his vows at Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence in 1421, in time to observe Masaccio and Masolino at work on the famous frescoes there. He was more suited to the life of a painter than to that of a Carmelite, for in 1456, while chaplain to a convent in Prato, he induced a nun to elope with him. She was to bear him a child, Filippino, who grew up to be an excellent painter of outstandingly chaste morals. Filippo was employed as an artist by the Medici, and through their intercession obtained a special dispensation to marry Filippino's mother.

The pair of panels, the Annunciation and the Seven Saints were originally from a Medici palace in Florence. The shape and subject matter of both panels suggest that they were part of the furnishings of two separate but related rooms, either as bed heads or as panels situated above a bed or door. While the seven saints illustrates a dynastic theme through the male member of the family, the Annunciation would have been more suitable for a woman's room.