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

Madonna with the Child and two Angels

1465
Tempera on wood, 95 x 62 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

This extremely well-known and even popular work has always been considered as one of the highest and most lyrical expressions of Lippi's art. It is certainly a late composition, a distinct foretaste of themes that would be developed by Botticelli, Pollaiolo and Leonardo: the tension and incisiveness of the line, the typology of the faces and the tender melancholy expressed by the persons portrayed. It has been said that this work represents not a mother with her child, but rather abstract figures absorbed in a vaster contemplation of private thoughts and feelings.

The element of design is so greatly emphasised in this painting that it seems almost the artist's only means of expression. His colour creates a soft light, and the play of light and shade, plus the transparency of the veils, creates the illusion of movement rather than of substance. In the context of this soft light, the suggestion of modelling in the face of the Madonna seems hardly more than a tremor.

The delicate profile of the Virgin Mary, seated by the window, is outlined clearly against the rocky landscape, while two angels hold up the Christ Child, who reaches toward his praying mother. The angel in the foreground turns with an odd smile toward the spectator.