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

St Luke the Evangelist

c. 1454
Duomo, Prato

Towards the end of his life Lippi had the opportunity to decorate the vast choir of Prato Cathedral with a fresco cycle treating the lives of Saint Stephen and Saint John the Baptist. By this time Lippi had married a former nun and settled in Prato, a town near Florence, where they had a son, Filippino, who became a painter. It took the artist many years to complete this commission, but it was obviously worth the effort. He appears in full maturity here, at a time when he could reach back to his early experiences to create a powerful series that falls into the distinguished tradition which can be traced from the Brancacci Chapel to Raphael's stanze in the Vatican Palace.

Among the four Evangelists he painted in the vault, the longhaired Saint Luke seems like a youthful thinker with his head resting on his left hand and his elbow on his raised knee. This figure belongs to a sculptural tradition that can be found in the early quattrocento with Nanni di Banco and Donatello and is carried on in painting to Michelangelo's Sistine Prophets. Because of the great distance, Lippi was forced to put aside a certain amount of petty detail and abandon his sometimes idiosyncratic light for a more single-minded approach, in this his 'ultima maniera'.