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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Filippino Lippi was one of the most accomplished and gifted Florentine draftsmen and artists of the second half of the 15th century.

Born around 1457, Filippino Lippi is a product of a popular and illicit love affair between the celebrated painter, Fra Filippo Lippi and the young nun known as Lucrezia Buti. First trained by his dad, Filippino Lippi joined Sandro Botticelli's workshop in 1472, approximately three years after his dad's demise. After getting some crucial skills here, he went all alone knowing that he had acquired some colossal impact from two great masters.

Filippino Lippi's Early Days as a Painter

At first, his style as a draftsman and painter was characterised by form and line plus a relatively warm use of colour. Generally, these features are available in moderately early works like the Adoration of the Kings preserved in the National Gallery London and the Tobias and the Angel which is found in the National Gallery, Washington, D.C. The two portraits incorporate a naturalistic and vivid landscape rendering.

Filippino Lippi's Early Major Projects

Filippino Lippi's main project was the completion of the famous Fresco Cycle started by Masolino and Masaccio in the Brancacci Chapel. Moreover, he completed the Santa Maria del Carmine that had not been completed for over half a century. In this case, Filippino Lippi modified his painting style to enable his involvement to mesh with Masaccio’s increasingly monumental manner flawlessly.

All through his early days, Lippi made multiple drawings in metal point plus white gouache on prepared paper. In this case, he was able to benefit from the subtle tonal effects and nuanced line, which could only be attained via this procedure. An incredible example is the assessment of the two male figures available in the Metropolitan Museum. While this procedure was prevalent in the 15th century in Florence, Filippino Lippi utilised it with an extraordinary degree of freedom and assurance.

Around the mid-1480s, Filippino Lippi created the famous Madonna and Child situated in the Metropolitan Museum. Additionally, he painted another great piece known as the Vision of Saint Bernard, and it’s currently in the Florentine Badia. In these two great portraits, Filippino utilises both a poetic and reflective representation of his subjects with warm colours, a new subtleness of Chiaroscuro, as well as a Netherlandish interest in genre landscape and detail.

A few years later, 1488, Filippo Strozzi commissioned Filippino Lippi to paint his chapel located in the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Nonetheless, Filippino Lippi moved to Rome in 1489, where he designed multiple freely interpreted types of research after the Roman antiquities. First, Lippi’s major project during his stay in Rome includes the series of Frescoes located in the historic Chapel of Cardinal Carafa in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Notably, this project had been commissioned in 1488, but couldn’t be finalised until five years later. Filippino’s work in this particular project comprised of a new and lively form of animation and a unique interpretation of the historical vocabulary, which he acquired during his maiden trip to Roman. After spending most of his time in Rome, Filippino Lippi decided to return to his native land, Florence in 1493.

It's worth noting that he remained here until his demise. The most remarkable work of his period plus his career is ordinarily the series of frescoes for the previously mentioned Strozzi Chapel, which he ultimately finished around 1502. In the portrait, Filippino Lippi utilises a new mastery of a compositional complexity integrated with the dazzlingly and energetic coloured form. All through his last years in this industry, Filippino often used pen and ink than ever before. In the process, he attained incredible spontaneity and artistic energy in his forms as evident in the Virgin and Child Attended by the Angels, which is available in the Metropolitan Museum.

Madonna and Child

Indeed, this drawing from Filippino Lippi is available in the contemporary Florentine palace. When you look through the window, you will see an arcade that has the armorial device of Filippo Strozzi, a wealthy Florentine banker. Ordinarily, this background induces the area next to the Strozzi villa and near to Florence. In the drawing, there is one man who is performing domestic tasks outside the house, while another one is seen on a bridge spearing fish. Generally, enslaved users from sub-Saharan Africa started coming to Portugal in Florence via Portugal in the 1460s.

Standing Youth with Hands in Lippi's Back alongside a Seated Youth Reading

First, this drawing demonstrates Filippino’s virtuosity as a draftsman. In the drawing, it is evident that his management of the challenging procedure of metal point is descriptive and precise. The muscular, lean nude positioned on the left was seen as a preliminary assessment for either Christ or Saint Sebastian in a Flagellation scene. The study at the right of a seated young individual going through a book is perhaps of a workshop assistant posturing as a model.

Style and Technique

Filippino Lippi portrayed his characters and skills in landscape whereby he designed the ancient world in its optimum details. Here, he showed the impact of the Grottesco style he had learned during his stay in Rome. In the process, Lippi created a mysterious, ‘animated,’ incredible but disquieting style, portraying the strangeness of nightmare. Therefore, Lippi exhibited his fantastic ruthless executioners with the greyest of faces, who stormed against the saints. In 1488, upon going to Rome with the recommendation of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Lippi amassed a new type of inspiration, which was somewhat different from his previous works. All in all, Filippino Lippi alleged that his continued research on the ancient era themes helped him a lot.

The Angel of the Annunciation

It was created by Raffaellino del Garbo, a gifted draftsman of Filippino Lippi and an expert designer for embroideries in the Renaissance. In 1912, a museum in New York purchased this artwork ad Lippi’s work. Notably, this subtle pricked cartoon was typically one of the many designed by Garbo as a model for the embroidered figures. In fact, the outer and inner contour lines of this study were cautiously pricked for transfer.

Virgin and Child Attended by the Angels

This lively, bold drawing of a Madonna and child accompanied by the Angels was perhaps preparatory for a painted panel of a similar subject. Filippino’s mastery at defining volumes and shapes by regulating the dense and complex network of lines in a pen and ink is precisely evident. It contains similarities to other late drawings done by Filippino Lippi.

Mature Works

Upon his return to the motherland, Florence, he worked on multiple arts like the Apparition of Christ to the Virgin, Adoration of the Magi, Saint John Baptist and Maddalena, as well as the Sacrifice of Laocoon. In addition, it is worth noting that Lippi worked outside his home city area, on the Certosa or the Chapterhouse in Prato and in Pavia, where he finalised on the Tabernacle of the Christmas Song currently located in the City Museum. In 1501, he painted the Mystic Wedding for Saint Catherine in Bologna, the Basilica of San Domenico. Filippino Lippi’s final work was the confession for the Santissima Annunziata Church, Florence. However, this exclusive artwork was not unfinished by the time he died.


Amongst his later portraits, the Wounded Centaur which is found in the Christ Church Picture Gallery in Oxford warrants an exceptional mention thanks to its moving poetic expression. Filippino Lippi passed away in Florence in April 1504. Notably, his most recognised follower is a famous painter, Raffaellino del Garbo. As a matter of fact, Garbo’s drawings are regularly mistaken as those of Filippino Lippi. Lastly, due to Filippino’s reputation and fame, it is worth noting that on his burial date, all the city’s workshops closed on his honour. According to some experts, some skills possessed by Lippi signifies him to be one of the most elusive psychologists of his time as well as the most modern in spirit amongst the artists in Renaissance.