Filippino Lippi

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Filippino Lippi

Italian artist

Born 1457 - Died 1504

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LIPPI, FILIPPINO (1457-1504), was the natural son of Fra Lippo Lippi [c.1406-1469] and Lucrezia Buti, born in Florence and educated at Prato. Losing his father before he had completed his tenth year, the boy took up his avocation as a painter, studying under Sandro Botticelli [1445-1510] and probably under Fra Diamante [c.1430-c.1490]. The style which he formed was to a great extent original, but it bears clear traces of the manner both of Lippo and of Botticelli, more ornamental than the first, more realistic and less poetical than the second. His powers developed early; for we find him an accomplished artist by 1480, when he painted an altarpiece, the Vision of St. Bernard, now in the Badia of Florence; it is in tempera, with almost the same force as oil painting. Soon afterwards, probably from 1482 to 1490, he began to work upon the frescoes which completed the decoration of the Brancacci chapel in the Carmine, commenced by Masolino [c.1383-1447] and Masaccio [1401-1428] many years before. He finished Masaccio's Resurrection of the King's Son, and was the sole author of Paul's Interview with Peter in Prison, the Liberation of Peter, the Two Saints before the Proconsul and the Crucifixion of Peter. These works are sufficient to prove that Lippino stood in the front rank of the artists of his time. The dignified and expressive figure of St Paul in the second-named subject has always been particularly admired, and appears to have furnished a suggestion to Raphael [1483-1520] for his Paul at Athens. Portraits of Luigi Pulci [1432-1484], Antonio Pollajuolo [c.1432-1498], Lippino himself and various others are in this series. In 1485 he executed the great altarpiece of the Virgin and Saints, with several other figures, now in the Uffizi Gallery. Another of his leading works is the altarpiece for the Nerli chapel in S. Spirito, the Virgin Enthroned, with splendidly living portraits of Nerli and his wife, and a thronged distance. In 1489 Lippino was in Rome, painting in the church of the Minerva, having first passed through Spoleto to design the monument for his father in the cathedral of that city. Some of his principal frescoes in the Minerva are still extant, the subjects being in celebration of St Thomas Aquinas [c.1225/1227-1274]. In one picture the saint is miraculously commended by a crucifix; in another, triumphing over heretics. In 1496 Lippino painted the Adoration of the Magi now in the Uffizi, a very striking picture, with numerous figures. This was succeeded by his last important undertaking, the frescoes in the Strozzi chapel, in the church of S. Maria Novella in Florence Drusiana Restored to Life by St John, the Evangelist, St John in the Cauldron of Boiling Oil and two subjects from the legend of St Philip. These are conspicuous and attractive works, yet somewhat grotesque and exaggerated, full of ornate architecture, showy color and the distinctive peculiarities of the master. Filippino, who had married in 1497, died in 1505. The best reputed of his scholars was Raffaellino del Garbo [c.1476-1524].

Like his father, Filippino had a most marked original genius for painting, and he was hardly less a chief among the artists of his time than Fra Filippo had been in his; it may be said that in all the annals of the art a rival instance is not to be found of a father and son each of whom had such pre-eminent natural gifts and leadership. The father displayed more of sentiment and candid sweetness of motive; the son more of richness, variety and lively pictorial combination. He was admirable in all matters of decorative adjunct and presentment, such as draperies, landscape backgrounds and accessories; and he was the first Florentine to introduce a taste for antique details of costume, &c. He formed a large collection of objects of this kind, and left his designs of them to his son. In his later works there is a tendency to a mannered development of the extremities, and generally to facile overdoing. The National Gallery, London, possesses a good and characteristic though not exactly a first-rate specimen of Lippino, the Virgin and Child between Sts Jerome and Dominic; also an Adoration of the Magi, of which recent criticism contests the authenticity. Crowe [1825-1896] and Cavalcaselle [1820-1897], supplemented by the writings of Berenson [1865-1959], should be consulted as to this painter. An album of his works is in Newnes Art Library.

Source: Entry on the artist in the 1911 Edition Encyclopedia.

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Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

Added on 13 February, 2010