Lippi, Filippino
Florentine, 1457 - 1504

Biography

The son of Fra Filippo Lippi, Filippino began his training as a very young boy in his father's workshop. Documents record a partial payment he received in 1469 for the frescoes in the apse of the duomo in Spoleto, whose execution, interrupted by Fra Filippo's death that same year, was completed by the friar's associate Fra Diamante. On his return to Florence, Filippino worked initially with Fra Diamante; according to some scholars, he assisted him in painting the predella panels with stories from the life of Christ now in the Museo Civico in Prato. Soon he moved on, however, to the workshop of Botticelli, where he was active in 1472. During his collaboration with Botticelli, which was probably fairly long, Filippino created a number of panels in which, despite the very strong influence of the master, one readily observes the young Lippi's extraordinary elegance of drawing, subtlety of feeling, and penetrating characterizations. They are so close to Botticelli, however, that Berenson at first considered them the work of a hypothetical "Amico di Sandro," an artist he considered influenced by, but distinct from, both Botticelli and Filippino. These early works include the Tobias and the Three Archangels in the Galleria Sabauda in Turin; five Allegorical Figures in the Galleria Corsini in Florence; stories from the lives of Virginia (Musée du Louvre, Paris), Lucretia (Galleria Palatina, Florence), and Esther (Musée Condé, Chantilly); and others, among them The Coronation of the Virgin in the NGA.

In the 1480s Filippino, by this point an established painter, received numerous commissions for works on a monumental scale, including frescoes, probably never actually painted, for the Sala dell'Udienza in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. To these years are to be dated two altarpieces for churches in Lucca (four saints for the church of San Michele; side panels each representing two saints for the church of San Ponziano, now in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California); the Annunciation (1483-1484) for the Palazzo Pubblico of San Gimignano (now in its Museo Civico); the altarpiece of the Otto di Pratica in Palazzo Vecchio (now in the Uffizi, completed February 1486); the Vision of Saint Bernard in the Badia Fiorentina; and the Madonna and Child with Saints painted for the Rucellai chapel in San Pancrazio (now in the National Gallery, London). A sense of the monumental, an acute attention to naturalistic detail, increasingly complex compositional schemes, and an autumnal palette also characterize the Stories from the Life of Saint Peter entrusted to Filippino toward 1483-1484 to complete the decoration of the Brancacci chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine. His highly original artistic language, in which an interest in unusual or bizarre details described with an almost Flemish illusionism coexists evocatively with motifs taken from classical antiquity, is fully expressed in the years around 1490. The principal works of that period are the frescoes in the Carafa chapel in Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome (completed in 1493) and some large Florentine altarpieces (the Virgin and Child with Saints and Donors in Santo Spirito and the Adoration of the Magi of 1496, formerly in San Donato agli Scopeti and now in the Uffizi). A particularly imaginative and demanding undertaking was the mural decoration of the Strozzi chapel in Santa Maria Novella in Florence with stories from the lives of Saints Philip and John, begun in 1489 but not completed until 1502, after a long interruption. By this time Filippino's work was in demand in the great art centers all over Italy: he designed an altarpiece of the Pietà for the Certosa near Pavia (of which only the preliminary drawings remain), painted the Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine in 1501 for San Domenico in Bologna, and two years later executed the Virgin and Child with Saint Sebastian and Other Saints for the church of San Teodoro in Genoa (now Palazzo Bianco). He died in Florence in 1504, leaving numerous works unfinished. The importance of his contribution to the birth and development of Florentine Mannerism was recognized and appreciated by Vasari, who celebrated his "ingegno... tanto bizzarro e nuovo" ("imagination... so curious and original"), observing that Filippino "fu il primo il quale ai moderni mostrasse il nuovo modo di variare gli abiti, e che abbellisse ornatamente con veste antiche succinte le sue figure" ("was the first among the moderns to employ the new method of varying the costumes, and... to embellish his figures with ancient dress").[1] [This is the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

[1] Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, translated by A.B. Hinds, New York, 1968: 199.

Bibliography

1899
Berenson, Bernard. "Amico di Sandro." Gazette des Beaux-Arts Ser. 3, 21 (1899): 459-471; Ser. 3, 22 (1899): 21-36.
1904
Supino, Igino B. Les deux Lippi. Florence, 1904.
1905
Konody, Paul G. Filippino Lippi. London, 1905.
1935
Scharf, Alfred. Filippino Lippi. Vienna, 1935. 2nd ed. 1950.
1938
Neilson, Katherine B. Filippino Lippi. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1938.
1957
Berti, Luciano, and Umberto Baldini. Filippino Lippi. Florence, 1957. 2nd ed. 1991.
1992
Nelson, Jonathan. The Later Works of Filippino Lippi from the Roman Sojourn until his Death. Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1992.
1995
Zambrano, Patrizia. "L'eredità di Filippo: qualche indicazione sui prima passi di Filippino Lippi nella bottega paterna." In Natività di Filippo Lippi: restauro saggi e richerche. Ed. Maria Pia Mannini. Pisa and Prato, 1995.
1997
The Drawings of Filippino Lippi and His Circle. Carmen Bambach and George Goldner with Alessandro Cecchi et al. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1997.
2003
Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 373.