Filippino Lippi

Artist's Details

Filippo Lippi was born in Prato in 1457, son of Filippo Lippi, a Carmelite friar of the Order of the Carmine of Florence and Lucrezia Buti. The son was called “Filippino” with diminutive to distinguish him from his father. His father was a famous painter who worked in Florence, Padua, Prato and Spoleto, mastering a style that became very popular among the main artists of the Laurentian age. Filippino first studied in his father’s workshop and at the age of fourteen he went under Sandro Botticelli, who had also been his father’s student. In Botticelli’s workshop (1472) he studied his refined and elegant style with rhythmic and dynamic use of lines and his paintings of this period are very much influenced by Botticelli’s work. Among them are the Madonnas of Berlin, London and Washington, the Three archangels and Tobias in the Galleria Sabauda of Turin, Madonna del Mare in the Galleria dell’Accademia and the chests with the Stories of Ester, Stories of Lucrezia and Stories of Virginia, made between 1475 and 1480. The same year, 1480, he enrolled in the Compagnia di San Luca and painted the Annunciation, now conserved in the Galleria dell’Accademia of Florence.

Between 1482 and 1485 Filippino completed the cycle of frescoes with the Stories of St. Peter in the Brancacci chapel in the church of Carmine in Florence, which were left unfinished by Masolino da Panicale and Masaccio sixty years before. Filippino was probably chosen for his stylistic loyalty for his father, who studied under Masaccio. He committed to complete the lower section of the frescoes by painting the Dispute of Simon Magus, the Crucifixion of St. Peter, the Resurrection of the Son of Theophilus, St. Peter in Prison Visited by St. Paul and the Liberation of St. Peter. The overall result was harmonious.

In the following two years, Filippino painted the Otto altarpiece for Palazzo Vecchio and the Apparition of the Virgin to St. Bernard for the convent of the Campora outside Porta Romana, now conserved in the Badia Fiorentina. On his way to Rome he stopped in Spoleto, where his father died in 1469, to bring his father’s remains in Florence as he wanted him to be buried in the cathedral of Florence. Lorenzo the Magnificent approved his request.

Filippino was called to Rome by cardinal Oliviero Carafa in 1488, who wanted him to paint the frescoes in his family chapel in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. During his stay in Rome he deepened his knowledge on ancient art. He saw the frescoes of Melozzo da Forlì and Pinturicchio, whose works inspired him to develop his personal style by adding references to ancient Rome and wise quotations. He returned from Rome in 1491 and participated in the competition to decorate the façade of the Duomo of Florence. He continued to paint the cycle of frescoes for the Filippo Strozzi chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella, which he had stared before his trip to Rome, completing it in 1502. The decorated windows of the chapel were added in 1503, after the death of the commissioner. They were designed by Filippino, with decorations of Madonna and Child, two angels and Saints Philip and John.

When Filippino returned in Florence in 1492, he produced numerous altarpieces such as the Apparition of Christ (1493, Munich), Madonna with Child and Saints in the church of Santo Spirito, the Adoration of the Magi in the church of San Domenico in Scopeto, conserved today in Gallerie degli Uffizi.

In his last period Filippino proved to be one the greatest interprets of the formalistic and classical style that was developing in Florence at the time. After the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the city was left with restless and spiritual atmosphere and Savonarola’s preaching had driven many artists towards ascetic style. In 1501 Filippino painted the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine of Alexandria for the church of San Domenico in Bologna. Two years later, the city of Prato commissioned the altarpiece of the Town Hall, Madonna with Child and Saints (Pala dell’Udienza), now kept in the Civic Museum of Prato.

Filippino died in Florence in 1504 and he was buried behind the church of San Michele Visdomini, as remembered on a memorial plaque that has been added afterwards.