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What does the world remember the great womanizer who painted the Mother of God and the angels: Filippo Lippi
What does the world remember the great womanizer who painted the Mother of God and the angels: Filippo Lippi

Filippo Lippi is one of the many prominent Italian Renaissance painters of the Quattrocento period. His work, being religious in context, as well as playing with color and experimenting with naturalism, gave the world a unique opportunity to look at biblical figures in a new light.

1. Biography

Self-portrait of Filippo Lippi. \ Photo:

Filippo was born in Florence, Italy in 1406 to a butcher named Tommaso. When he was two years old, he was completely orphaned after the death of his father. He then lived with his aunt, who eventually placed him in the convent of Santa Maria del Carmine after she could not afford to take care of him. Filippo's first contact with art came from Masaccio's frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine. At sixteen, he took the vow of a Carmelite monk. Despite his position as a holy man, he was anything but them. The future artist repeatedly violated his sacred vows, as a result of which he became an interesting background for his contemporary Fra Angelico. The church freed him from religious duties, giving him the opportunity to paint in its entirety. Filippo created many important works that shaped not only the Renaissance style, but art in general.

2. His work can be seen all over the world

Dispute in the synagogue of Filippo Lippi, 1452. \ Photo:

Like the paintings of many great artists, Filippo's works have found their way into museums and private collections around the world. Most of his work remains in Florence due to the fact that it is one of the epicenters of his artistic career. However, his paintings can be found outside Italy as well. During his life, he created at least seventy-five works of art (including paintings and murals). Many of these works are kept in the United States, some of which are in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Frick Collection and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and a wide variety of other collections. His works can also be found in England, Germany, France, Russia and other countries.

3. Breaking the rules

Fragment: Adoration of the Magi, Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi, 1440-60 \ Photo:

When discussing Italian Renaissance artists, they tend to fall into one of two categories. Some of them devote themselves completely to their art and work, leaving practically no time for anything else, while others divide their time between their art and other pursuits. Filippo falls into the latter of the two categories. Interestingly, many people compare Lippi with his contemporary Fra Angelico. Both came from completely opposite strata of society, despite the fact that they were monks. First, Fra's decision to enter the church was a personal choice. Filippo entered his service because he was a poor orphan with few opportunities. Fra was an exemplary monk: he was devout, loved God and obeyed the rules established in his devotion to the church. On the other hand, Filippo was exactly the opposite. In carrying out his duties, he was Don Juan and, as a rule, was considered a violator of peace and order.

4. Vigorous activity and life

Annunciation with two kneeling donors, Filippo Lippi, 1435. \ Photo:

Despite the fact that Filippo was a man of dubious reputation, he managed to climb the church stairs. He began as a monk after completing his vows at the age of sixteen, and in 1425 became a priest. Being in the ranks of the church provided him with access to various works of art and gave him a place to live and work. In 1432 he left the monastery to travel and paint. Despite being fired, he was not released from his vows. Filippo often referred to himself as “the poorest monk in Florence”.His financial problems plagued him throughout his life, as he often spent large sums of money on his romantic interests. In 1452 he became chaplain in Florence. Five years later, Filippo became rector. Despite the mobility of his posts, accompanied by financial compensation, he continued to be a frivolous spender, unaware of a sense of proportion.

5. Travel

Annunciation, Filippo Lippi, 1443.\ Photo:

Filippo was not one of those who stayed in one place for a long time. He was born in Florence and lived there for a significant part of his life. There is also speculation that he spent some time in Africa. In addition, the artist visited Ancona and Naples. Oddly enough, from 1431 to 1437 there is no record of his career. He later lived in Prato, staying there for at least six years, if not more. His last residence was in Spoleto, where he spent his last years working at Spoleto Cathedral. His overall success and ability to travel can be directly related to his best patrons: the Medici. At a time when communication was an integral part of people, word of mouth (especially in the circles of secular lionesses) meant a lot, playing a significant role.

6. "The Life of Artists"

Giorgio Vasari, 1769-75 \ Photo:

Before the Renaissance, there was little art history research. Apart from various primary sources, including contracts, correspondence, and receipts, artist biographies were usually not written. In 1550, Giorgio Vasari first wrote "Biography" of the most prominent painters, sculptors and architects - an art encyclopedia detailing the life of Italian Renaissance artists. This book has two editions and is usually called The Life of Artists. There is some criticism of Vasari's work as it highlights Italian artists, mostly working in Florence and Rome, and discusses only those artists that Vasari deemed worthy of discussion. While Vasari did include artists whose work he disliked, as he deliberately mentions in the dedicated sections for them, this is still one of the best sources often cited by Italian Renaissance scholars.

The vision of St. Augustine, Filippo Lippi, 1460. \ Photo:

Filippo Lippi's section in The Lives of Artists provides a significant insight into his life, both in the field of art and beyond. In it, the author tells in detail about the artist's movements in Italy, as well as about his personal life. In fact, most of the facts on this list are taken from the lives of artists and then corroborated by external sources.

7. Amorous affairs

Madonna and Child Enthroned with Two Angels, Filippo Lippi, 1440. \ Photo:

Filippo was the modern equivalent of a playboy. He had many romances and mistresses, although monastic vows forbade him to do so. While working for Cosimo de Medici, the Medici locked Filippo in his room to make sure he would work and not play with the girls. However, this did not stop the artist. He escaped after taking many days off to satisfy his carnal needs. This behavior has repeatedly led Filippo to trouble, both financial and social.

8. An affair with a nun

Madonna and Child with Two Angels, Filippo Lippi, 1460-65 \ Photo:

Apart from his art, Filippo is best known for his scandalous romance with Lucrezia Buti. While chaplaining in Prato, he kidnapped a nun from her monastery. They lived together in an artist's house, both breaking their vows to the church. Lucrezia not only became Filippo's mistress (and possibly wife), she was one of his main models for his Madonnas. All of this caused controversy within the church, with the result that many other members of the church broke their vows and cohabited. They later returned to church again to their duties before leaving again. Lucrezia became pregnant, giving birth to a son in 1457, and later she gave birth to a daughter. Despite their misdeeds, none of them faced any real punishment. With the help of the Medici, the Pope broke the vows of Lippi and Bootie. These two might or might not have gotten married. Some sources claim that Filippo died much earlier than it came to the wedding with Lucretia.

9. He was a teacher

The Virgin Worshiping the Child by Sandro Botticelli, 1480 \ Photo:

Filippo, like many outstanding artists, had several students.One of his most famous students was none other than Sandro Botticelli. He taught Sandro from a young age, starting around 1461, when Botticelli was probably seventeen. Filippo taught Sandro the techniques of Florentine art, teaching him panel painting, fresco and drawing. Botticelli followed Lippi through Florence and Prato, leaving his tutelage around 1467.

10. "Bourgeois Madonna"

Madonna and Child, Filippo Lippi, 1440. \ Photo:

Madonna Filippo created a new image of the Virgin Mary. These Madonnas reflect the then modern Florentine society. Conceived as a "bourgeois Madonna", these images reflect an elegant Florentine woman dressed in contemporary fashion and showing contemporary beauty trends. During his life, Filippo painted dozens of paintings of the Madonna, many of which demonstrated the luxury and grace of the fifteenth century. The intention was to humanize the Virgin Mary through realism. Before Filippo Madonna, as a rule, they looked modest and restrained. They were saints, supreme beings who inadvertently created a barrier between common people and biblical characters. He also wanted his Madonnas to look like women that anyone can meet on the streets of Florence. Thus, making them attractive and highlighting their humanity.

11.His son also became an artist

Self-portrait by Filippino Lippi, 1481. \ Photo:

Filippo taught his son to paint, and the young man became an artist quite early. After Filippo's death in 1469, his son became a student of Sandro Botticelli, entering his workshop in 1472. Filippino was a painter and draftsman whose work was lively and linear, and filled with a warm palette of colors. Unsurprisingly, his early work was heavily influenced by his two mentors. His first major project was the completion of the Masaccio and Masolino fresco cycle in the Brancacci Chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine. Like his father, Filippino traveled throughout Italy, leaving his artistic mark wherever he went. The young artist completed a huge number of cycles of frescoes and altar pieces, although, like his father, he left his last work for Santissima-Annunziata, unfinished due to his sudden death. Although Filippino was an outstanding artist, his contemporaries, Raphael and Michelangelo, overshadowed his work and contributions.

12. The Legend of Abduction by Pirates

French ship and Berber pirates, Art Anthony, 1615. \ Photo:

In 1432, Filippo was kidnapped by the Moors on the Adriatic while he was traveling with friends. The Moors, known as Berber pirates, held the artist captive for about eighteen months, and possibly longer. Some claim that he became a slave in North Africa. Presumably, his skill in portraiture was the key to his escape. He created a portrait of his captor (or in other pirate captain stories). His captor was so impressed that he made Filippo his personal artist. At some point, his painting brought him high status in Africa and, ultimately, freedom. Whether this story is true or not, who knows. However, there is a gap in his career that fits comfortably with his alleged abduction.

13. Cosimo Medici - friend and patron

Portrait of Cosimo Medici, 1518-1520 \ Photo:

The Medici were one of the most powerful families in Europe, with influence on the continent for about 500 years. They started out as the prominent Arte della Lana family, the wool guild of Florence. The family later became famous for banking, revolutionizing the entire process. Due to their wealth and status, they quickly infiltrated Italian politics. Their political dynasty began with Cosimo Medici. Cosimo became an avid patron of the arts, which allowed Florence to flourish as one of the main artistic epicenters of the Renaissance.

Worship in the Forest or Mystical Christmas, Filippo Lippi, 1459. \ Photo:

Cosimo became one of Filippo's most influential patrons, awarding him numerous orders. He even helped him get instructions from Pope Eugene IV.In addition to his art, the Medici family used their influence on more than one occasion to get the artist out of trouble. They helped free him from prison for fraud and also tried to free him from sacred vows so that he could marry the mother of his children.

14. Filippo as a source of inspiration

Proserpine, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1874. \ Photo:

A group of English painters, poets and art historians founded the Pre-Raphaelite movement in the mid-nineteenth century. The general thrust of the movement was to modernize art by returning to medieval and Renaissance art. The group's work as a whole had the following characteristics: sharp outlines, vibrant colors, attention to detail, and a smoothed perspective. The second wave of this movement occurred in 1856, fueled by the friendship between Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris under the leadership of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. This second wave focused on three main components: theology, art, and medieval literature. The Pre-Raphaelites were completely separated from the counterculture of the art world. They rejected the rules set by academic art. And Filippo's work has become an inspirational reference. After all, who could be more countercultural than someone whose work was very religious but refused to obey theological rules?

15. Death

Scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, Filippo Lippi, 1469. \ Photo:

Filippo's death was sudden and unexpected, despite his advanced age. He died in 1469 at about the age of sixty-three. During this time he worked on scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary for the Spoleto Cathedral. Although he had already spent two or three years on this project, beginning in 1466 or 1467, it remained unfinished and was completed by his studio assistants, possibly including his son, in about three months. Filippo is buried in the cathedral in the south arm of the transept. Initially, the Medici family asked the Spoletans to return his remains to Florence for burial, but they were refused. Lorenzo Medici commissioned his son Filippo to design his father's marble tomb.

Coronation of Marsuppini, Filippo Lippi, 1444. \ Photo:

Unfortunately, many scientists and historians still argue about the cause of Filippo's death. His death mirrored his life: full of fables and conspiracy theories, with no clear answers. The circumstances of his death are generally unknown, although quite a few opinions suggest poisoning. Vasari suggested that his death was caused by his romantic adventures. Others suggest that he was poisoned by a jealous mistress. Some believe that Lucrezia Buti's family poisoned him in revenge for ruining her reputation by never marrying the woman who gave him children.

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