Filippino Lippi’s Pala dell’Udienza is a wooden panel in a hemicycle shape representing Madonna and Child with patron saints of the city of Prato, Stephen and John the Baptist. The atmosphere between the characters in the foreground is intimate and calm, and the contrasting light embraces the figures and the landscape behind them, creating a scene with dramatic atmosphere, typical of Prato’s artistic culture with Savonarola’s influence.
The painting was originally situated in Sala dell’Udienza of Palazzo del Comune of Prato and it has a well-documented history thanks to numerous sources that allow the reconstruction of events related to the commission. In January 1492 the eight commissioners proposed to allocate public funds to an altar piece for the Sala dell’Udienza, which was situated at the center of Prato and therefore often used for public events. In 1502 the proposal was accepted. The sources of the time tell that certain Antonio Vannocchi de’ Rochis suggested a qualified artist for the commission on 26 January 1502. The choice fell on Filippino, who was not only a well-known established artist in Florentine area, but also a native of Prato and therefore he had a strong link with the city. They paid him a modest compensation of 30 gold florins and although he also had to pay the shipping costs, the Tuscan master accepted the commission which makes it seem more of an honor to him and probably he wanted to pay a tribute to his home city.
Even though the painting is not in perfect condition, it shows a great sensitivity with strong colors, almost recalling the works of Leonardo. Today it is on display in Prato’s Palazzo Pretorio together with other works, among them the works of Filippino’s father, Friar Filippo.
Scharf A., Filippino Lippi, Vienna 1935, pp. 8, 72-73, 97-98, 109, n. 42;
Neilson K.B., Filippino Lippi. A Critical Study, Cambridge 1938, p. 169-173;
Di Agresti G., “La tavola emicicla di Filippino Lippi per il comune di Prato”, in Prato. Storia e arte, VII, 16, 1966, pp. 91-109;
Mannini M. P., “Una proposta per Filippino Lippi: documentazione di artisti pratesi per Lorenza il Magnifico”, in Prato. Storia e arte, XXXII, 78, 1991, pp. 22-26;
Filippini C., “Le opere realizzate per prato”, in C. Filippini, C. Cerretelli, I Lippi a Prato, Prato 1994, pp. 77-80;
Nelson J.K.., in Filippo et Filippino Lippi. La Reinaissance à Prato, catalogo di mostra (Paris 2009), cat. 27, pp. 156-158 (con bibliografia precedente);