Italian painter, son of Filippo Lippi, b. at Prato, in 1458; d. at Florence, April 18, 1515
Lippi, FILIPPINO, Italian painter, son of Filippo Lippi (see next article), b. at Prato, in 1458; d. at Florence, April 18, 1515. His father, leaving him an orphan at the age of ten, confided him to the care of Fra Diamante, his best pupil and his friend, who placed the boy in Botticelli’s studio. The earliest works of Filippino now extant are the panels of a cassone, or marriage chest, at Casa Torrigiani, representing the history of Esther. He was only twenty years old when he painted the picture of the “Vision of St. Bernard”, preserved at the Badia of Florence, which is perhaps the most charming of all Florentine altarpieces (1480). It is an exquisite song of youth and love. The chaste beauty of the Virgin, her hands of lily-like purity, the tenderly impassioned countenance of the saint, the very realistic and manly portrait of the donor (Francesco del Pugliese), the vast and strange landscape where the apparition takes place—all form an absolutely novel harmony in Florentine painting, and one which Leonardo da Vinci in his “Virgin of the Rocks” did little more than embellish, without allowing the beholder to lose sight of the model.
Having become famous through this picture, the young master was commissioned to complete in the Carmelite church the famous frescoes of the Brancacci chapel, before which the genius of his father had awakened, and which had been interrupted for more than fifty years. On the two pilasters of the entrance he painted the “Visit of St. Paul to St. Peter in Prison” and the “Deliverance of St. Peter”; on the left wall the “Resurrection of the Emperor’s Son” (one group of which composition had already been sketched by Masaccio); finally, on the right wall, “Sts. Peter and Paul before the Proconsul” and the “Crucifixion of St. Peter”. With marvellous suppleness the young artist adapted himself to the style of this grandiose cycle, and composed in the same tone a continuation not unworthy of the beginning, and in harmony with the grave and classic genius of Masaccio. But he sought this harmony only in the general outlines, and (like his father, in the “Death of St. Stephen”) he introduced into scenes from the Acts of the Apostles a gallery of contemporary costumes and portraits. Among these portraits Vasari mentions Soderini, P. Guicciardini (father of the historian), Francesco del Pugliese, the poet Luigi Pulci, Sandro Botticelli, Antonio Pollaijuolo, and, lastly, the author himself.
The young master was of a nervous, mobile, impressionable temperament, susceptible to every influence, as well as marvellously gifted and an artist to his finger tips; his face showed lively intelligence; his genius was hospitable to all types of beauty, however diverse, welcoming all with a strange, youthful arbor. Still, his later work never equalled the happy grace of his earliest efforts. His picture painted in 1485 for the altar of the Signory, the “Virgin between Sts. John the Baptist, Victor, Bernard, and Zanobi” (Uffizi), shows an exaltation of tone and a metallic dryness beyond the most glaring and the sharpest of Botticelli’s works. Shortly afterwards Filippino went to Rome to paint, at the Minerva, the frescoes of the “Life of St. Thomas Aquinas” (1487-93). This work is very powerful, and enough has not been said of Raphael‘s indebtedness to it for his first ideas for the “School of Athens” and the “Disputa”. These frescoes mark an important period in the artist’s development. At Rome the antique inspired him, not as an historian, a humanist, or a scholar, but as a painter and a poet who discovered in it new elements of delight. The antique appeared to him as an inexhaustible source of the picturesque: the rich ornamentation with its foliage, garlands, masks, trophies, was like a new toy in his hands. He even enriched it still more with whatever he could find of Oriental luxury—Moorish, Chinese. “It is marvellous”, writes Vasari, “to see the strange fancies which he has expressed in his painting. He was always introducing vases, footgear, temple-ornaments, headdresses, strange trappings, armor, trophies, scimitars, swords, togas, cloaks, and an array of things so various and so beautiful that we owe him today a great and eternal obligation for all the beauty and ornamentation that he thus added to our art.”
To these antique influences were soon added those of German engraving, so widespread at that time. The trace of them is visible in the “Adoration of the Magi” (Uffizi), painted in 1495 for the Convent of Scopeto. This is an astonishing picture, full of confusion and oddities, eccentric, disjointed in composition, and crowded with admirable trifles and accessories. Of all Filippino’s works it is perhaps the most hybrid and composite. At Prato, however, he sometimes recovered momentarily a pure inspiration as in the “Virgin with Four Saints”, a fresco in a niche at the market corner (1498); it is one of his simplest and most delightful figures. His last important work was the decoration of the Strozzi chapel at Sta. Maria Novella, completed in 1502, which shows on the ceiling figures of patriarchs, and on both walls episodes from the lives of St. John and St. Philip. Nowhere else is the strange, theatrical character of his imagination so strongly shown as in this composition, in which there is, nevertheless, much of grace, movement, and lyricism. In the scene “St. Philip forcing an exorcized demon to enter the idol of Mars”, the Apostle uses so commanding a gesture that Raphael has reproduced it in his “Preaching of St. Paul”. Here the brilliant and fantastic architecture suggests some dream city or magie temple. Its glitter and profusion of ornament, its waving lines and undulating surfaces, foreshadow the style of Bernini and Borromini; and yet some of the patriarchs, such as the Adam and Jacob, possess an ascetic and meditative grandeur which foreshadow the Prophets of the Sistine Chapel, while some of the female figures are the closest approach to the “St. Anne and the Virgin” of Leonardo.
Filippino had no pupils of distinction. It cannot even be said that he founded a tradition; he himself was too much dominated by the influence of others. But of the generation immediately preceding the great works of Michelangelo and Leonardo, of that restless and subtile, complex and nervous generation of Botticelli and Cosimo Roselli, he is perhaps the most varied, the most gifted, and the most lovable.