Bio: Fra Filippo Lippi

Special thanks to the Microsoft Corporation for permission to use following biographical information from Microsoft® Encarta '97:

Fra Filippo Lippi was an early Renaissance Italian painter who brought a new note of informality and decorativeness to the basic intellectualism of Florentine painting.

As a child, Fra Filippo was placed by his widowed mother in the monastery of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, where he received training as a painter and took religious vows as a monk in 1421. His early works were highly influenced by the earlier Florentine master Masaccio. His fresco Reform of the Carmelite Rule (1432, Forte di Belvedere, Florence) echoes Masaccio's style in its use of imposing three-dimensional human figures; the Annunciation (circa 1438, San Lorenzo, Florence) shows his mastery of Masaccio's newly discovered principles of perspective. After 1440, Fra Filippo gradually abandoned Masaccio's precepts in favor of a more decorative style that recalled the Gothic in its use of fluttering draperies, attenuated figures, and glowing colors. He stressed the human aspects of his scenes; his Madonnas are sweetly pious or appealingly pretty (although sometimes lacking the spirituality of Madonnas by other painters), and his depictions of the Christ child and of cherubs are often playful or mischievous. In the famous Madonna and Child (1455, Galleria degli Uffizi Gallery, Florence), for instance, a boy angel grins out of the painting directly at the viewer. Much of this informality undoubtedly derives from his renunciation of his vows and subsequent marriage in 1461. The painter Filippino Lippi was his son.

In works such as the fresco series Scenes from the Lives of Saint Stephen and John the Baptist (1452-c. 1465, Prato Cathedral), Fra Filippo combined traditional Gothic landscape elements with the new perspective style to create mysterious, receding backgrounds for his works.

Fra Filippo exerted a strong influence on later Florentine art. His style led directly to that of the Florentine painter Sandro Botticelli, and the influence of his Gothic settings can be seen in Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna of the Rocks. He died in Spoleto on October 9, 1469.

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