Filippo Lippi(c. 1406 – 1492) like other painters of his time, such asFra Angelico, also he was a monk. However, Lippi led a life that was not at all chaste and there is news of his romances and affairs with different nuns. This did not prevent him from making numerous works of a religious nature such as his famous Annunciation or the table that concerns us here.
Madonna and Child and stories from the life of Saint Anne of Lippi
And perhaps because of his more worldly character, Lippi's work also has more human and less mystical features than those of his contemporary Fra Angelico. And a magnificent example is this table en titled Virgin with Child and history of the life of Saint Anne where the details of daily life in the fifteenth century abound.
Lippi had that ability to know how to include in religious images, scenes that could be seen in any street or house of the time. For example, someone is seen running up some stairs in a hurry, or there are some women carrying their baskets who seem tired. This gives the painting of him a naturalness and also allows him to include elements that add charm such as a child who catches the attention of her mother by pulling on her dress.
In addition to including elements like this, it makes a painting like this more understandable, which is basically quite complex. To begin with, because it includesmany episodes narrated in the Bible and that are separated by a long time.
It tells us that Jesus was born of Mary, but the birth we see is actually that of the Virgin herself, who in turn had Saint Anne as her mother, who was a barren woman. That birth is just behind the figure of the Madonna that occupies the entire foreground of the work.
While on our right we see the stairs, in which it is Santa Ana herself who is receiving the news of her pregnancy. I mean, we're going back in time.
But how to direct the viewer in that narrative. Well, Filippo Lippi uses several elements. Among them, the red color stands out, which curiously helps us navigate through the scenes. First we look at Maria's red dress in the foreground, and from there we look at the red clothes that can be seen on Santa Ana's bed, at the curtains above it and finally at the red shirt of the man who quickly climbs the stairs to give the good news to his wife.
The color red unifies everything, and it's not easy in such a complex composition, in which Lippi has wisely included different perspective resources in the scenes. In short, this is a wonderful work of the Quattrocento. A work in which it is also worth dwelling on the delicacy of the brushstroke, capable of creating transparent veils or pale and luminous faces at the same time. In other words, Filippo Lippi was a first-class artist and it should not be surprising to learn that he was the master of the greatBotticelliauthor of thefamous Spring and Birth of Venus fabrics.