Title: Madonna and Child with Two Angels (1465)
Artist: Filippo Lippi
Location: Uffizi Gallery Florence, Italy
Medium: Tempera (egg yolk and color pigment) on Wood
Dimensions: 91.4 cm x 63.5 cm (36 in × 25.0 in)
Fra Filippo Di Tommaso Lippi, better known as Filippo Lippi, was born in Florence around 1406. Orphaned very young, Filippo was under the care of his aunt until around eight years old. At that point, she took him to the convent of the Carmine where he became a friar. There, he learned to paint. He eventually quit the monastery. In 1456, Filippo was living in Prato, near Florence. There, he painted frescoes in the cathedral. Later, he moved to Spoleto, where he was to paint the apse of the cathedral. He never finished the series. He died on or around October 8th of 1469.
The painting is considered to be a work of the Early Renaissance. The use of linear perspective is evident in the painting. In the backdrop, the window frame becomes almost three dimensional. In addition, chiaroscuro can be seen. The darker colors in the background and the dark dress both illuminate the figures’ faces. Naturalism is another noticeable technique that Lippi used. The subjects look real and proportional. The halo and veil seem transparent, as well. They individually each show emotion, as well. The Madonna, with her hands folded, shows an expression of solitude towards the Christ child. Jesus, who is being aided by two angels, seems to be reaching for his mother. The angel in the foreground gives a slight smile, towards the viewer.
In the painting, the Madonna is thought to be Lucrezia Buti. Buti lived in the monastery chapel of S. Margherita in Prato, in which Lippi was working in 1458. With permission, Lippi used Buti to sit for the painting of the Madonna. He used her as the model. However, he also abducted her and took her to his house. The nuns tried to return her to the monastery, but she stayed with Lippi. As a result, they had a son, Filippino Lippi. It’s rumored that the smiling angel in the painting is his son, who also became a painter. This hypothesis also says that the Madonna is looking more towards this smiling angel, her true son, rather than the Christ Child.
Observing this painting, I am automatically drawn in by the angel looking backwards. His slight smile is welcoming. It lightens the mood of the rest of the painting, which has a more serious feel. The baby Jesus has a serious expression, like his mother. I also enjoy the specific subtle details that Lippi placed in the painting. For instance, the veil that Mary wears is not only transparent, but the thread piecing it together at the ends can be seen, as well. Her halo is ever so slight, as well. The window frame behind the figures has a three dimensional feel, drawing the viewer in. Finally, Lippi’s use of color is also grabs the viewer’s attention. The royal blue against the pale colors and whites balances Mary in comparison to the angel and Christ child.