Coronation of the Virgin (Filippo Lippi)
|Coronation of the Virgin|
|Medium||Tempera on panel|
|Dimensions||220 cm × 287 cm (87 in × 113 in)|
Francesco Maringhi, procuratore of the church of Sant'Ambrogio, left money after his death in 1441 for a new painting at the high altar of the church. Bills of the payments for the work until 1447 have been preserved.
In the late 1430s, brother Filippo Lippi had left the convent of the Carmine convent to open an artist workshop of his own; however, having no money enough to pay assistants and apprentices, he worked alone with two usual collaborators, Fra Carnevale and Fra Diamante, along with an unknown "Piero di Lorenzo dipintore". For the Coronation of the Virgin, however, Lippi had to call in a total of six external painters, who were responsible also for the gilded frame, now lost. Originally the work had a predella, also lost, with the exception of a small panel with a Miracle of St Ambrose, now in the Berlin State Museums.
The work was immediately admired and was copied by numerous painters. It remained in Sant'Ambrogio until 1810, when it was stolen. Later it was sold to the Galleria dell'Accademia, from which it was transferred to the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence.
The work is composed of a single panel, divided into three sectors by the arches. At the sides of the central arch are two tondos, depicting the Angel of Annunciation and the Virgin.
The main scene features a crowd of biblical figures, angels and saints, portrayed in informal positions; most of them are probably portraits of existing people. As usual, the scene is set in Heaven, but Lippi decided to avoid the outdated gilded background, replacing it with a striped sky which alludes to the seven sectors of the Paradise. In the middle, in a commanding position, are Christ and the kneeling Madonna who is going to be crowned, within a majestic marble throne in perspective. The latter includes the shell-shaped niche, featured in other paintings by Lippi.
Four angels hold a gilded ribbon, while in the lower level is a series of kneeling saints; on the left and right are other two groups of saints and angels, inspired to the crowded choirs of older works, such as the Incoronation of the Virgin by Lorenzo Monaco. The elevated pavement of the side groups creates a perspective triangle whose apex is the Virgin's head.
Amongst the figures in the middle can be recognized Mary Magdalene and St. Eustace (titular of one of the most important altars in the church) with his sons and his wife. These figures, all without a halo, are shorter than normal, as the painter imagined them to be correctly seen from below, in perspective, by the nuns of the Sant'Ambrogio convent from their separated choirs.
Kneeling at the side are the work's commissioner, facing a cartouche with the write ISTE PERFECIT OPUS ("this one finished the work"), while on the left is a self-portrait of Filippo Lippi in the robes of a Carmelite monk (as he was). Standing on the sides are the two titular saints of the church: St. Ambrose (left) and St. John the Baptist (right), whose austere representation reveal the influence of Masaccio.
- Galleria degli Uffizi. Rome. 2003.
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