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Fra Filippo Lippi

( Originally Published 1913 )



Fra Filippo Lippi was also a monk, but beyond this we shall find few similarities between him and Fra Angelico. One lived a pure and saintly life; the other found the rules of his order very burdensome. One saw visions of Paradise and painted them for men whose imaginations were less subtle; the other found earthly visions quite satisfying. One pictured angels, neither men nor women; the other painted the faces of his peasant acquaintances for Madonnas, and for cherubs took as models the chubby urchins of the street.

Filippo Lippi's parents died when he was a mere babe. While yet a child his aunt took him to the monastery of the Carmelites and left him to be trained for service by the broth ers, Never did one less adapted to the life of the cloister take the vows. Fortunately it was found that the youth had a gift for painting, and he was allowed to follow this impulse. So clever did he prove himself that the brothers were fain to overlook weaknesses that in another might have been more severely punished. Finally Filippo's utter inability to abide by the rules of the monastery became so manifest that he was allowed to go his way and fill commissions with his brush.

Churches were being constantly erected. Their style of architecture provided walls that required decoration, and fresco painting was by far the least expensive method known. Cosimo de Medici befriended Filippo Lippi and Popes gave him commissions, as did also many small churches and private people. However, it was extremely difficult to get him to continue with a given amount of work until he finished it. His habits of life were far from orderly. He persuaded the nun who posed for

his Madonnas to elope and marry him. Finally, it is said, the Pope gave them both a relinquishment of their vows and sanctioned the marriage. Filippino Lippi, their son, was also an artist.

Filippo Lippi supplied an important link in the chain of Renaissance artists. There is no trace of the predominating spiritual in his pictures. On the other hand his work shows a fidelity to the truth taught by Masaccio-that perfection in art is the result of careful imitation of nature.



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