Filippo Lippi, Novitiate Altarpiece, 1442-50

Filippo Lippi. Novitiate Altarpiece (Madonna Enthroned with Four Saints). 1442-1450. Tempera on panel. 196 x 196 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi.

The Medici’s patron saints are depicted in this altarpiece commissioned by Cosimo the elder between 1442 and 1459 for the altar of the Noviziato chapel in Santa Croce. Cosmas and Damian are shown healing the Emperor Justinian,  “a scene that recalls frequent references in popular literature to the Medici family as the healers of Florence’s political ills” (Kent, 148). The chapel, dedicated to Saints Cosmas and Damian like its Dominican counterpart at San Marco, thus likewise bears the imprint of an individual patron’s personal saints upon a significant religious space, “indicat[ing] the Franciscans willingness to relinquish internal authority to a powerful layman” (Holmes, 192). Regardless of the potential acquiescence on the part of the church in a power struggle with its patrons, the Franciscan-run Santa Croce was able to adorn and beautify its walls through private funding made possible by prominent citizens such as the Medici. Additionally, Fossi (220) notes that the red balls in the frieze above the scene represent the balls on the Medici family coat of arms.

References

Fossi, Gloria. Filippo Lippi. Florence: SCALA, Istituto Fotografico, 1989.

Gregori, Mina. Paintings in the Uffizi & Pitti Galleries. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1994.

Holmes, Megan. Fra Filippo Lippi: The Carmelite Painter. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

Kent, Dale. Cosimo De’ Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: The Patron’s Oeuvre. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

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