Art e Dossier

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Art History

Filippino Lippi: biography

Filippino was born in Prato in 1457 from the union of the Florentine painter, Fra’ Filippo Lippi and the beautiful nun, Lucrezia Buti. As a young boy he helped his father work on the frescoes in the apse of the cathedral in Spoleto. After his father’s death in 1469 he completed the work with Fra Diamante to whom he had been apprenticed. However, there are records stating that in 1472 he was working in the atelier of Sandro Botticelli, the most loyal of Filippo Lippi’s pupils, who in turn, made a major contribution to the development of Filippino’s style. The artist’s independent career developed in the early fourteen eighties the period to which major works such as the completion of Masaccio’s frescoes in the Brancacci chapel, in Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence are attributed (1482-1483). During those years, in addition to the painting of the Vision of St. Bernard, in the Badia Fiorentina (circa 1480) and the Otto Altarpiece, a public commission for Palazzo della Signoria (1485) in 1487 Filippino signed the contract for the frescoes in the Strozzi chapel in Santa Maria Novella that he only completed in 1502. Thanks to the intervention of Lorenzo the Magnificent, in 1488 Filippino was summoned to Rome to fresco the chapel of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, the most important Dominican church in Rome. The frescoes in this chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, contributed to the definition of Lippi as the anticlassical artist par excellence. Vasari often called him “bizarre” because of the imaginative and extremely detailed aspects of his frescoed scenes and his “grotesque” decorations inspired by the ancient paintings in the underground rooms of the Domus Aurea – Nero’s palace that had been “discovered” at the time. Upon returning to Florence Filippino, who had interrupted his work on the Strozzi Chapel in Santa Maria Novella, began interpreting the crisis caused by the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent (1492) and the preachings of Girolamo Savonarola as well as the many and gradual social and political changes taking place in the city. In the nineties, however, before Savonarola’s influence affected his style, the artist painted other works that still reflected suggestions of Roman art as well as Flemish painting such as the Nerli Altarpiece for the Florentine church of Santo Spirito. In 1496 the monks of the San Donato a Scopeti commissioned the Adoration of the Magi, that is now in the Uffizi to replace the one that Leonardo da Vinci had never finished. An evident spirituality and Savonarolan austerity are evident in the St. John the Baptist and the Magdalene (Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence) and another iconographically unusual and enigmatic piece entitled E prima vidit in which Christ and the Virgin Mary thank the Lord for the Resurrection on Easter Morning. In 1503 he received the important commission to paint a Deposition for Santissima Annunziata in Florence that was completed by Pietro Perugino in 1507. Filippino was highly esteemed by his fellow citizens, as an artist and for his modesty and mild manners. During the final years of his life he also held several honorary public positions such as member of the commission in charge of the restoration of the lantern of the Florence cathedral that had been damaged by lightning (1498) and the famous commission that decided where Michelangelo’s would be placed in 1504 – the year that Filippino died in Florence.

The works