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Prato and Filippo Lippi: an Extraordinary Painter, a Priest Who Fell in Love

from Annalisa Chelli - 16/04/2015

Annalisa Chelli

Filippo Lippi is the kind of extravagant, talented artist that I love. And every time I think about him, I can't help but smile - a curious, amused smile. I would have loved to have a chat with him. For those who do not know anything about him, here are some facts. Just enough to make you want to know more.

Filippo Lippi The Funeral of St. Stephen

Filippo Lippi was an important Florentine painter from the 13th Century. Together with Beato Angelico, he started a refined, original pictorial style, characterized by an innovative use of color and perspective. Therefore, he influenced his contemporaries and became an inspiration to universally acknowledged artistic geniuses of the later generations, such as Sandro Botticelli. In other words, he laid the groundwork for the incomparable artistic and cultural period known as the Florentine Renaissance.

We have the privilege to host, in the Prato Cathedral, a series of frescoes by Filippo Lippi, which he began in 1452 and finished in 1465, telling the lives of Saint Stephen and Saint John the Baptist. The frescoed walls are extremely beautiful. The colors are lively (on the right wall, in the fresco of the Funeral of Saint Stephen, by the way, brings to mind one of our colors Evening), the men and women in the paintings seem to actually be moving right before our eyes and the perspective is so deep and realistic that they make you feel as if you were inside the frescoes.

   Filippo Lippi

The Love for Lucrezia

But Filippo Lippi, in addition to being an amazing artist, led a very peculiar life. Nowadays, he would be in the gossip column of every tabloid! He reminds me of the movie "The Priest's Wife" by Dino Risi, in which Marcello Mastroianni and Sofia Loren have a love story that is very similar to the one I am about to tell.

Filippo Lippi was a friar. He had grown up in a convent ever since he was a little boy, and the choice to become a priest was pretty much an obligatory step for him. While he was working on an altarpiece portraying the Virgin Mary in the church of Santa Margherita in Prato, where he was the chaplain, he asked the Mother Superior to let one of the nuns in the convent be a model for him. The nun was Lucrezia Buti, a very beautiful woman according to the sources of the time. An indomitable love sparked between the two, and in 1456 Filippo kidnapped Lucrezia and married her. A boy was born from their union, Filippino, who followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a successful painter. When romantic love and rebelliousness meet, stories like this are born! Stories that one must live to the fullest in spite of everything, stories that make us dream.

Filippo Lippi The Feast of Herod

Being from Prato, I often visit the Cathedral to enjoy Lippi's frescoes. They are a real food for the soul. So, if you are in Prato or if you are passing by on your way to some other city, please stop and pay a visit here. Visit our Cathedral, remember me and then let me know if you liked the frescoes as much as I do.

Opera del Duomo Museum in Prato

The Palazzo Pretorio in Prato hosts other works by Filippo Lippi.

If you liked this article maybe you would also enjoy Gaetano Magnolfi, Prato and weaving as a springboard