Filippo Lippi

Fra' Filippo Lippi, was an Italian painter of the Italian Quattrocento. He was born in Florence. In 1420 he was admitted to the community of Carmelite friars, taking religious vows in the Order the following year, at the age of sixteen. He would have been ordained a priest sometime around 1425, and was to remain in residence in that priory until 1432. Because of his interest in drawing, the prior decided to give him the opportunity to learn painting.

Eventually Fra Filippo quit the monastery, but it appears he was not released from his vows. Vasari relates Lippi's visits to Ancona and Naples, his capture by Barbary pirates and enslavement in Barbary, where his skill in portrait-sketching helped to release him.

In June 1456 Fra Filippo is recorded as living in Prato (near Florence) to paint frescoes in the choir of the cathedral. In 1458 he met Lucrezia Buti, a novice of the Order or a young lady placed under the nuns' guardianship. Lippi asked that she might be permitted to sit for the figure of the Madonna. Under that pretext, Lippi engaged in sexual relations with her. The result was their son Filippino Lippi, who became a painter no less famous than his father (the picture is of his son).

The frescoes in the choir of the cathedral of Prato, which depict the stories of St. John the Baptist and St. Stephen on the two main facing walls, are considered Fra Filippo's most important and monumental works. The close of Lippi's life was spent at Spoleto, where he had been commissioned to paint, for the apse of the cathedral, scenes from the life of the Virgin. It was completed by one of his assistants, his fellow Carmelite, Fra Diamante, after Lippi's death. Lippi was buried on the right side of the transept, with a monument commissioned by Lorenzo de' Medici and executed by his son Filippino and others.

He had always been jealously patronized by the Medici family, beginning with Cosimo de' Medici. Francesco di Pesello (called Pesellino) and Sandro Botticelli were among his most distinguished pupils.

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