This important early work by Filippo Lippi is from an altarpiece the lateral panels of which are in the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti, Turin, and show Saints Augustine and Ambrose, and Saints Gregory and Jerome—four doctors of the church. The altarpiece was reunited in the Metropolitan in 2005 (see Additional Images, fig. 1). Although the fact that they did, indeed, form an altarpiece had sometimes been contested (Marchini 1975), there really can be no doubt of the matter: the box-like enclosure surrounding the figures runs continuously through all three panels, as does the gold background, and although the pavement in front of the Virgin projects unexpectedly into the viewer's space, devices of this sort are common in Lippi's work. Since the Metropolitan Madonna and Child has been transferred, any reconstruction of the triptych must necessarily be based on the physical evidence of the two Turin panels, which have come down to us intact. They have not been thinned and are only minimally trimmed along their vertical and curved edges. The moldings are original, though partly regilt (that on the Metropolitan painting was copied from those in Turin). This is an unusual feature for an altarpiece at this date, as is the fact that there is no sign on the reverse sides of the Turin panels of a batten that would have secured the three panels together. It is not out of the question that they were inserted into some sort of tabernacle or recess with a marble framework.
It is possible to reconstruct the impact the altarpiece made of a continuous space running through all three panels from Pesellino's altarpiece of the Madonna and Child and four saints in the Louvre, Paris—a work heavily indebted to Lippi's paintings of the 1430s. Pesellino's figure of Saint Zenobius(?) looking over his shoulder at the viewer, his cope falling in heavy vertical folds and the hem rising in a sharp diagonal, clearly depends from Lippi's Saint Augustine, as does the enclosure (given a more modern aspect by replacing the gold with trees and a sky), and the stepped pavement (jogging in rather than projecting out). Despite the continuous architectural enclosure used to unify the space in Lippi's triptych, the panels do not make a completely homogenous impression. This is due partly to a stylistic divergence among the panels and partly to the compromised condition of the Metropolitan's painting, which has been transferred. The gray-pink dress of the Virgin has become transparent with age, making some of the preparatory underdrawing visible as well as a pentimento in the book held by the Christ Child. There is, however, no reason to posit the presence of workshop collaboration, as does Rowlands (1983).
Concerning the date of the altarpiece, it should be noted that the period 1435–40 was one of intense experimentation by Lippi and there is not a simple progression from one work to the other. Documents prove him to have been a slow, even dilatory worker, who was constantly revising and adding to his initial conception. He often had several commissions in hand and there are sometimes stylistic disparities, or variances, with a single work. This is, for example, the case with the Annunciation in San Lorenzo, Florence, in which there is a notable difference in the treatment of color in the right and left hand panels (the altarpiece seems to have been painted on two supports that were only joined together subsequently, thus explaining why the moldings of the center pier do not completely align and the colors do not completely match: see Ruda 1993, p. 389). The figures in the right hand panel are painted in what might be called a chiaroscural mode that emphasizes delicate transitions between lit and shaded areas, while in the left hand panel the drapery is brilliantly colored, with sharply delineated folds that emphasize sculptural solidity. This is essentially the same division we find between the New York and Turin panels, suggesting that the triptych was perhaps begun in the late 1430s but only brought to completion around 1440, or even somewhat later. It is worth pointing out that the flat haloes of the saints, with incised, radiating lines, imitate those of Fra Angelico and are characteristic of Filippo Lippi's work of the 1440s—not of the 1430s. Here again, the contrast with the perspectival haloes of the Madonna and Child suggests a protracted execution.
In the Metropolitan's panel the Virgin is shown seated on the throne of wisdom (the "Sedes Sapientiae") holding a rose identifying her as the bride of Christ and the Church ("the rose of Sharon": Song of Solomon 2:1; the "rose plants in Jericho": Ecclesiasticus 24:18). The verse inscribed on the scroll held by one of the angels is taken from Ecclesiasticus (24:19): VENITE AD ME OMNES Q[VI] CONCVPISCITIS ME & AGENERATION[IBVS] M[EIS IMPLEMINI] ("Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruit"), a text on Divine Wisdom commonly associated with the Virgin (see Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Greenwich, Conn., vol. 1, 1971, pp. 23–25). Jerome was, in fact, devoted to Mary and his writings were used by proponents of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Romano (1993) points out that the habit worn by Saint Jerome probably indicates that the triptych was commissioned for a convent or monastery, as Jerome would normally be shown dressed as a cardinal when in the company of the three other fathers of the church. One possibility is the Gesuati, who followed the Augustinian rule and held Saint Jerome in special veneration. Their primary establishment in Florence was San Girolamo delle Poverine (see Walter Paatz and Elisabeth Paatz, Die Kirchen von Florenz, Frankfurt, vol. 2, 1941, pp. 350 ff.). Another possibility is that the altarpiece was painted for the Augustinians, for whom, as noted above, Lippi painted the Barbadori Altarpiece as well as the Tarquinia Madonna. Pope Eugenius IV was himself an Augustinian and promoted their reform: in 1439 he transferred the Badia Fiesolana to the Augustinian Canons of Santa Maria di Fregionaia, near Lucca (Cosimo de' Medici was later to rebuild the church). The Augustinians were strong supporters of Marian devotions. However, there is no record of the work in a Florentine church and the altarpiece may have been destined for a foundation outside the city. Marchini mistakenly took the floral decoration on the cope of Saint Augustine for a Medici heraldic device (the palle) and Ruda noted that this work could be the one Lippi refers to in a letter of 1439 addressed to Piero de' Medici.
[Keith Christiansen 2010]
Franz Kugler. Kleine Schriften und Studien zur Kunstgeschichte. Vol. 2, Stuttgart, 1854, p. 321.
Katalog der Gemäldesammlung des verstorbenen Herrn Franz Anton Zanoli, jetzt im Besitz dessen Schwiegersohnes Max Clavé von Bouhaben. 1858 [see Refs. Parthey 1864 and Zeri and Gardner 1971].
G. Parthey. Deutscher Bildersaal. Vol. 2, L–Z. Berlin, 1864, p. 45, no. 9, lists it as by Filippo Lippi, in the Clavé von Bouhaben collection, Cologne.
M[ax]. J. F[riedländer]. "Versteigerung der Sammlung von Clavé-Bouhaben." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 17 (1894), p. 328, attributes it to Lippi's workshop, rather than to the master himself.
A Collection of Ancient Paintings, Objects of Art and Modern Paintings. New York, 1925, unpaginated, unnumbered, ill., as by Lippi.
Walter Heil. "The Jules Bache Collection." Art News 27 (April 27, 1929), p. 3, ill. p. 31, dates it to Lippi's late period.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill.
[Georg] Gronau in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 23, Leipzig, 1929, pp. 272–73, dates it after 1435 and connects it to the two panels representing four Fathers of the Church in the Accademia Albertina delle Belle Arti, Turin [see Notes]; mentions the influence of Masaccio.
August L. Mayer. "Die Sammlung Jules Bache in New-York." Pantheon 6 (December 1930), p. 541, ill. p. 540, dates it about 1440.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CLXXX, compares it to the altarpiece from the church of Santo Spirito (1437–38), now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Otto H. Förster. Kölner Kunstsammler. Berlin, 1931, p. 99, lists it as from the collection of Johann Baptist Ciolina-Zanoli, Cologne (d. 1837).
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 288, lists it as by Lippi.
Bernardo Berenson. "Fra Angelico, Fra Filippo, e la cronologia." Bollettino d'arte 26 (July 1932), p. 21–22, fig. 16, dates it to the time of the Santo Spirito altarpiece (Musée du Louvre, Paris), near 1437, and dates the Turin panels a little later; observes the Byzantine and late Gothic style of the throne.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 2, Fifteenth Century Renaissance. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 208.
Giorgio Castelfranco. "Opere d'arte inedite alla mostra del tesoro di Firenze Sacra." Rivista d'arte 15 (1933), p. 88.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 247, lists it as an early work by Lippi.
Georg Pudelko. "Per la datazione delle opere di Fra Filippo Lippi." Rivista d'arte 18 (1936), p. 58, connects it to the Turin panels and dates it between 1437 and 1441.
Mario Salmi. "La giovinezza di Fra Filippo Lippi." Rivista d'arte 18 (1936), p. 21 n. 1, calls it the central part of a triptych that had the Turin panels as wings, and dates it about 1440.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 10, ill.
Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 46, ill., dates it about 1440.
Robert Oertel. Fra Filippo Lippi. Vienna, 1942, pp. 22, 66, pl. 54, considers it the center of a triptych that had the Turin panels as wings; dates it about the time of Lippi's Tarquinia Madonna of 1437 in the Palazzo Barberini, Rome, and Annunciation in the church of San Lorenzo, Florence.
Harry B. Wehle. "The Bache Collection on Loan." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (June 1943), p. 285.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 9, ill.
Mary Pittaluga. Filippo Lippi. Florence, 1949, pp. 47, 210–11, fig. 17, notes the connection to the Turin panels, finding it close in date and style to the Tarquinia Madonna of 1437.
Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 224, no. 76, colorpl. 76.
A[ndreina]. Griseri. "Una revisione nella galleria dell'Accademia Albertina in Torino." Bollettino d'arte 43 (1958), p. 69.
Eduard Trautscholdt. "Zur Vor- und Nachgeschichte einer Kölner Gemäldeversteigerung 1894." Mouseion: Studien aus Kunst und Geschichte für Otto H. Förster. Cologne, 1960, pp. 303, 305 nn. 18, 34–36, fig. 115, traces the history of the Zanoli collectin.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, pp. 113–14, as the companion to the Turin panels.
Bernard Berenson. Homeless Paintings of the Renaissance. Ed. Hanna Kiel. Bloomington, 1970, pp. 215–16, 227, 229, 253, pl. 386 [similar text as Ref. Berenson (Bollettino d'arte) 1932].
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. New York, 1971, pp. 83–85, ill., date it shortly after Lippi's stay in Padua, between the Tarquinia Madonna and the Santo Spirito altarpiece; note that the rose held by the Madonna may be an allusion to a verse from the Song of Solomon (2:1).
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 107, 327, 608.
Giuseppe Marchini. Filippo Lippi. Milan, 1975, pp. 26, 95, 97, 164, 200, 205, no. 10, fig. 15, identifies it as the center of a triptych but rejects the connection with the Turin panels; dates it between the Tarquinia Madonna and the Barbadori altarpiece, a Madonna and Child with saints and angels in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Edward Fowles. Memories of Duveen Brothers. London, 1976, p. 145, states that Duveen acquired it from Adolf Schaeffer's collection in 1921.
Mirella Levi d'Ancona. The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting. Florence, 1977, p. 541, fig. 134, discusses the symbolism of the rose.
Francis Ames-Lewis. "Fra Filippo Lippi and Flanders." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 42 (1979), p. 269, dates it to the late 1430s and notes a relation to Flemish painting, suggesting that Lippi could have had "direct contact with the workshops of Tournai".
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 226, 232, fig. 402 (color).
Jeffrey Ruda. Filippo Lippi Studies: Naturalism, Style and Iconography in Early Renaissance Art. PhD diss., Harvard University. New York, 1982, p. 70 n. 22, p. 129 n. 21, p. 155, mentions it with other works by Lippi that date to the late 1430s, including the Tarquinia Madonna and the Barbadori altarpiece.
Laurie Fusco. "An Unpublished 'Madonna and Child' by Fra Filippo Lippi." J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 10 (1982), pp. 1–9, fig. 3, dates it about 1437–38 and compares it to a Madonna and Child by Lippi in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City.
Pierluigi Gaglia in L'Accademia Albertina di Torino. Turin, 1982, pp. 138–39, dates the triptych to the end of the 1430s.
Eliot Wooldridge Rowlands. "Filippo Lippi's Stay in Padua and its Impact on his Art." PhD diss., Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., 1983, pp. ix, 16–17, 38–42, 55, 90, 96–98, 114, 132, 158 n. 137, p. 159 n. 146, pp. 193–94 n. 353, fig. 5, dates it 1442–45, suggesting Lippi received the commission during his stay in Padua and completed it years later in Florence; discusses the influence of Flemish painting and states that the Christ Child derives from a prototype by Robert Campin; attributes the attendant angels to assistants.
Miklòs Boskovits. "Fra Filippo Lippi, i carmelitani e il Rinascimento." Arte cristiana 74 (July–August 1986), p. 249 n. 41.
Elisabeth de Boissard in Chantilly, musée Condé: Peintures de l'Ecole italienne. Paris, 1988, p. 117, under no. 60.
Miklós Boskovits in Opus Sacrum. Ed. Józef Grabski. Exh. cat., Royal Castle, Warsaw. Vienna, 1990, p. 71 n. 20.
Francis Ames-Lewis. "Painters in Padua and Netherlandish Art, 1435–1455." Italienische Frührenaissance und nordeuropäisches Spätmittelalter: Kunst der frühen Neuzeit im europäischen Zusammenhang. Ed. Joachim Poeschke. Munich, 1993, pp. 179, 184, 186–87, fig. 5.
Jeffrey Ruda. Fra Filippo Lippi: Life and Work, with a Complete Catalogue. London, 1993, pp. 71, 84–85, 88, 374, 387–89, 405–6, no. 17a, colorpl. 44, pls. 218–20 (overall and details), dates it about 1435–37 and accepts the connection to the Turin panels; believes it was begun by Lippi before the Tarquinia Madonna and the Barbadori altarpiece.
G[iovanni]. Romano in Accademia Albertina: Opere scelte della Pinacoteca. Exh. cat.Turin, 1993, p. 34.
Peter Humfrey. "The Bellini, the Vivarini, and the Beginnings of the Renaissance Altarpiece in Venice." Italian Altarpieces, 1250–1550: Function and Design. Ed. Eve Borsook and Fiorella Superbi Gioffredi. Oxford, 1994, pp. 146–47, pl. 97, suggests that the triptych was a source of inspiration for Carità altarpiece (Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice), executed by Antonio and Giovanni Bellini in the mid-1440s.
Andrea De Marchi. "Un raggio di luce su Filippo Lippi a Padova." Nuovi studi 1 (1996), pp. 7, 15 n. 2.
Livia Carloni. "La Madonna di Filippo Lippi di Tarquinia." I Vitelleschi: fonti, realtà e mito. Ed. Giovanna Mencarelli. Civitavecchia, 1998, pp. 207, 211 [see Ref. Christiansen 2004].
Margaret L. Koster in Till-Holger Borchert. The Age of Van Eyck: The Mediterranean World and Early Netherlandish Painting, 1430–1530. Exh. cat., Groeningemuseum, Bruges. Ghent, 2002, fig. 106 (color reconstruction).
Meryle Secrest. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004, p. 457.
Keith Christiansen in Filippo Lippi: un trittico ricongiunto. Ed. Carlo Giuliano and Daniele Sanguineti. Exh. cat., Pinacoteca dell'Accademia Albertina. Turin, 2004, pp. 12–14, 16, 26–28, no. 1, ill. pp. 17–19 (color, overall and details), fig. 3 (color, with Turin panels).
Dorothy Mahon in Filippo Lippi: un trittico ricongiunto. Ed. Carlo Giuliano and Daniele Sanguineti. Exh. cat., Pinacoteca dell'Accademia Albertina. Turin, 2004, pp. 29–30, 32, fig. 6 (before restoration of 1979), describes in detail the conservation treatment of the painting carried out in 1950 and in 1979; adds that recent scientific analysis has determined the presence of both a proteinaceous binder (probably egg tempera) and oil in separate areas of the painting.
Daniele Sanguineti in Filippo Lippi: un trittico ricongiunto. Ed. Carlo Giuliano and Daniele Sanguineti. Exh. cat., Pinacoteca dell'Accademia Albertina. Turin, 2004, pp. 33, 35, 38–40 n. 31, suggests that the altarpiece may originally have included a predella and additional panels, noting the Madonna's gaze and gesture of offering a flower.
Keith Christiansen in From Filippo Lippi to Piero della Francesca: Fra Carnevale and the Making of a Renaissance Master. Ed. Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2005, pp. 52–53, 138, 143, no. 1B, ill. pp. 20 (color detail), 139 (color, with Turin panels), 140 (color) [Italian ed., "Fra Carnevale . . . ," Milan, 2004, pp. 53, 138, 143, no. 1a, ill. pp. XIV (color detail), 139 (color, with Turin panels), 140 (color)], believes that it was painted in Florence, where it influenced Pesellino, and that it was begun in the late 1430s and completed in about 1440; suggests that it was painted for the Gesuati or the Augustinians, or for a foundation outside Florence.
Vincenzo Gheroldi in Marco Palmezzano: il rinascimento nelle Romagne. Ed. Antonio Paolucci et al. Exh. cat., Musei San Domenico, Forlì. Milan, 2005, p. 129.
Andrea Di Lorenzo in From Filippo Lippi to Piero della Francesca: Fra Carnevale and the Making of a Renaissance Master. Ed. Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2005, p. 144 [Italian ed., "Fra Carnevale: un artista rinascimentale da Filippo Lippi a Piero della Francesca," Milan, 2004].
Luke Syson. "Fra Carnevale." Burlington Magazine 147 (February 2005), p. 137.
Andrea De Marchi in Da Allegretto Nuzi a Pietro Perugino. Ed. Fabrizio Moretti and Gabriele Caioni. Exh. cat., Moretti. Florence, 2005, pp. 104, 107, 109–10, states that it "can be placed exactly between the 'Madonna and Child' painted for Cardinal Giovanni Vitelleschi (Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica), dated 1437, and the Barbadori altarpiece for Santo Spirito in Florence, now in the Louvre, commissioned shortly before 8 March 1437 and in course of execution in 1438".
Doris Carl. Benedetto da Maiano: A Florentine Sculptor at the Threshold of the High Renaissance. Turnhout, Belgium, 2006, vol. 1, p. 102; vol. 2, fig. 42, relates the motif of the kicking child to that seen in works by Luca della Robbia such as his Madonna and Child in the Museo di San Marco, Florence.
Andrea De Marchi in Mantegna: La prédelle de San Zeno de Vérone, 1457–1459. Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2009, p. 20 n. 8.
Luciano Bellosi in The Alana Collection. Ed. Miklós Boskovits. Vol. 2, Italian Paintings and Sculptures from the Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century. Florence, 2011, p. 156.
Andrea De Marchi. La pala d'altare dal polittico alla pala quadra. Florence, 2012, p. 60.
Andrea De Marchi in Da Donatello a Lippi: officina pratese. Ed. Andrea De Marchi and Cristina Gnoni Mavarelli. Exh. cat., Museo di Palazzo Pretorio, Prato. Milan, 2013, p. 154, under no. 4.3, dates the triptych about 1437–38, comparing elements of the composition with a small altarpiece for private devotion (private collection).