Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-1469)
The offspring of humble parents, Filippo and his older brother John were taken in as boys by the community of the Carmine. Filippo was professed in 1421, probably at the earliest permissible age of fifteen, and in due course was ordained a priest. An early work, called the Reform of the Carmelite Rule, a fresco in the cloister, shows the influence of his master, Masaccio, but the figures are more realistic, proletarian, and give notice that Humanism is under way.
During the 40’s, Lippi is Florence’s leading painter. No need here to discuss his oeuvre, about which an extensive literature exists. Mention might be made of Our Lady of Humility of the Trivulzio Collection (Milan, Museo del Castello), “among the most astonishing creations of Italian painting.” From 1452 to 1464, Fra Filippo worked on frescos in the duomo of Prato, at the same time filling commissions in Prato, Florence, and elsewhere. Among them are some of his most famous paintings, such as the Virgin before a landscape with two angels (Florence, Uffizi Galleries).
With the Carmelite, Fra Diamante di Feo, Lippi in 1466 had begun decorating the apse of the cathedral of Spoleto, when he was interrupted by death. He appears on his sarcophagus clothed with the Carmelite habit, and his confreres in Florence dutifully entered the date of his death in the conventual necrology.