LIPPI, Filippino
(b. ca. 1457, Prato, d. 1504, Firenze)

Madonna with Child, St Anthony of Padua and a Friar

before 1480
Tempera on wood, 57 x 41,5 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Against a misty blue sky and dreamily romantic landscape the Madonna appears to a pious friar - probably the client who ordered the picture - and to St Anthony who is commending the friar to the Virgin. This little scene painted in restrained colours but with an animated design does not show anything unusual at first glance, but the more one looks at it, the more likely to discover new elements. First the unusual height of the Madonna holding the Child in her lap strikes attention as compared to St Anthony and the friar at whom she is looking as if they were tiny children. This deliberately archaic approach seems to be in almost conscious opposition to Verrocchio's and Ghirlandaio's rationally constructed compositions. Soon we also discover that, although the hem of her robe rests on the lawn decorated with splendid flowers, the Virgin is not actually in the landscape as in similar compositions by masters mentioned earlier, but is enthroned above it, on tiny clouds.

The visionary character of the Madonna is enhanced also by the fact that, whereas she is looking at the two friars in front of her with quiet melancholy, the faces of the two men reveal the intensive inner concentration of people experiencing a mystic revelation.

In this picture Filippino actually abandoned the methods of design and aesthetic ideals preferred in this century, or at least by the generation of artists preceding him. He builds his compositions with a loose, informal arrangement of the figures, an arrangement that gives the impression of accidental association, and he often mixes classically regular forms with irregular and even grotesque shapes, solution which sometimes recall idioms of the International Gothic style and sometimes almost those of Mannerism.