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 Fra Filippo Lippi  (1406 - 1469)

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Lived/Active: Italy      Known for: painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Fra Filippo Lippi possessed a robust and rakish disposition, which both scandalized and delighted his contemporaries of fifteenth-century Italy. As a member of the Carmelite order, Fra Filippo, (born in 1406) studied to be a painter and before long persuaded his elders to let him roam abroad to paint for the greater glory of the Church. But the lusty friar seemed more inclined to play than to paint, and as a result of his carousing and unmonkish behavior he was forced to retire to the obscure post of chaplain at the Convent of Santa Margherita in Prato.

It was there he discovered the nun Lucrezia Buti, whom he talked the abbess into letting him use as a model for a picture of the Madonna. Painting and wooing her alternately, the 50-year old friar made such progress that during a gala church festival he succeeded in carrying her off to his own dwelling. This of course threw the convent into an uproar, but the liberal Pope Pius II soon absolved the pair from their monastic vows, freeing Lippi to produce more paintings of Lucrezia and Lucrezia to produce a son who would one day become a painter as famous as his father.

Lippi's lust was so violent that it took hold of him; he could never concentrate on his work. And because of this, one time or other, when he was doing something for Cosimo de Medici in Cosimo's house, Cosimo had him locked in so that he wouldn't wander away and waste time. After he had been confined for a few days, Lippi's amorous or rather his animal desires drove him one night to seize a pair of scissors, make a rope from his bed sheets and escape through a window to pursue his own pleasures for days on end. When Cosimo discovered that he was gone, he searched for him and eventually got him back to work. And after that he always allowed him to come and go as he liked, having regretted the way he had shut him up before and realizing how dangerous it was for such a madman to be confined.

Vasari credited Fra Filippo with the introduction of modern grandeur to the design of figures, and with the depiction of feelings and expression. Lippi's major impact on the art of his time was through what may be called his human imagination. The exact features of his earthy Madonnas, angels and saints, their hairstyles and costumes, and even some of their body language, occur throughout the work not only of his immediate followers, Botticelli and Filippino, but also of Verocchio, Botticini, and Cosimo Rossselli. He died in 1469.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Life Magazine
Playbill of the South Coast Repertory Theatre, Costa Mesa, California
Giorgio Vasari

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