Fra Filippo Lippi
Fra Filippo was one of the best artists of his time; he was the son of Tommaso Lippi, a butcher of Florence; he was born about 1412. Left an orphan at an early age he fell to the care of his Aunt Lappacia, who had no fondness for him, and when he was eight years old put him in the convent of the Carmine in Florence. He developed an extraordinary talent for drawing and painting. He left the con-vent about 1432. He was always called Fra Filippo. His life was most irregular, but he had for his patron and friend Cosimo di Medici, who was powerful enough to protect him in all that he did. There are many fine pictures by Fra Filippo in the galleries of Florence, Munich and Berlin. He died in Spoleto in 1469. A monument was erected to him there by Lorenzo the Magnificent.
Browning, in his poem, "Fra Lippo Lippi," makes him tell his own story to the man who arrested him one night in one of his escapades.
He ends his story with this:
"That is you'll not mistake an idle word
The picture thus explained is "The Coronation of the Virgin," now in the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. The picture explains the poem, and the poem explains the picture. St. John Baptist stands in the right. Kneeling by him, his hands clasped, is Fra Filippo himself. A genuine portrait. Just in front of him is a kneeling cherub, from whose mouth come the words, "Iste perfecit opus." (He made this perfect work.) On the left stands St. Ambrose and near him is Job kneeling, across his breast a baldric, and on it "J. O. B." This is Job "past mistake."
The "bowery, flowery angel brood" stand round the throne, and in front is "the slender slip of a thing," with her soft palm out-stretched, addressing the celestial presence.
( Originally Published 1912 )
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