Madonna and Child

Filippino Lippi (Italian, Prato ca. 1457–1504 Florence)

ca. 1483–84
Tempera, oil, and gold on wood
32 x 23 1/2 in. (81.3 x 59.7 cm)
Credit Line:
The Jules Bache Collection, 1949
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This exquisite Madonna and Child was painted about 1483–84 for the wealthy Florentine banker Filippo Strozzi. Through an arcade decorated with his armorial emblems (three crescents) is a landscape that was probably intended to suggest the countryside around the Strozzi villa near Florence, where the picture probably hung in a private oratory. Like many wealthy men, Filippo Strozzi valued material display and insisted that his paintings employ the finest ultramarine blue—as here.

    About 1490 the duke of Milan's agent in Florence commented that Filippino's paintings were sweeter—più dolci—than those of Botticelli, Filippino's master.

  • Catalogue Entry

    The history of this very beautiful painting by Filippino Lippi cannot be fully reconstructed prior to 1900. However, the coat of arms of the wealthy Strozzi family—three crescent moons—appears both on the escutcheon decorating the capital of the column of the arcade and on the roundel in the spandrel, and the picture was almost certainly commissioned for a member of this famous banking family. The most likely candidate is Filippo Strozzi (1428–1491), who in 1482 commissioned Filippino to design an oblong composition of a verdure as part of the furnishings of a room and in 1487 contracted the artist to decorate his funerary chapel in Santa Maria Novella. Work on the chapel was interrupted by Filippino's employment in Rome for Cardinal Carafa (1488–89) and was still unfinished when Filippo died; it was only completed in 1502.

    The theme of the Christ Child fingering or reading from a book was extremely popular in Florence, one of the most famous examples being Botticelli's Madonna of the Magnificat (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence). It is a standard theme of Filippino's devotional paintings. Here the child rustles through the pages. The pomegranate on the table is an emblem of the Church while in the niche behind the Virgin are a brass lamp (an identical one is in Filippino's Annunciation in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg) and a book. The window gives a view beyond a colonnade or loggia to a townscape with people crossing a bridge, a woman pouring water, and an African figure fishing with a sharpened pole. The character of this landscape is much indebted to the example of Hugo van der Goes' great Portinari Altarpiece (Uffizi, Florence), which arrived in Florence in 1483. As in Filippino's altarpiece for Tanai de' Nerli in Santo Spirito, these activities in the background were almost certainly more than mere embellishment and had specific significance for the patron. As in so much Netherlandish painting, they probably gave the picture a topical frame of reference. Neilson (1938, p. 69) suggested that the picture could have been painted for the oratory built by Filippo Strozzi for his villa at Santuccio. Elaborating on this idea, Lillie (2005, pp. 140–43) has noted the relationship of the architecture of the villa's loggia to that in the painting and has further proposed that the landscape contains features of the vicinity of Santuccio; she identifies the picture with "A Madonna on panel" (1 nostro donna in piano) in a 1491 list of nine paintings from Santuccio.

    Filippo Strozzi belonged to one of the great patrician families of Florence. His father was exiled by the Medici in 1434, but in 1466 Filippo was able to return to the city of his forebears, having made his fortune in the Strozzi bank in Naples. He set about rehabilitating the family's prestige, constructing one of the grandest of all palaces in Florence, the Palazzo Strozzi, and providing for his funerary chapel. The palace was designed by Benedetto da Maiano (1442–1497), who also sculpted a portrait bust of Filippo and designed his tomb. We know that Filippo Strozzi owned at least one African slave, providing for his freedom in his will of 1491 (Giovanni Gaye, Carteggio inedito d'artisti dei secoli XIV, XV, XVI, Florence, vol. 1, 1839, p. 360), and this is of some relevance to the appearance of the Africans in the landscape background of the picture.

    The composition of the Metropolitan picture was copied by a follower of Filippino (Gemäldegalerie, Mainz) and was adapted by the young Piero di Cosimo (Royal Collection, Stockholm).

    In 1997 the painting was examined with infrared reflectography, revealing a free-hand preparatory drawing (or underdrawing).


  • Technical Notes

    Perhaps the most immediately striking aspect of this painting is the dazzling brilliance of the blue paint used to depict Mary’s mantle. In order to craft such a vibrant hue Filippino used the finest quality ultramarine, a pigment extracted from lapis lazuli, a mineral imported from Afghanistan. At the time, ultramarine was so costly that its value was many times the price of gold—but given the wealth of the Strozzi family, cost was no impediment. Mary’s mantle was underpainted with white paint in order to exploit the optical effects of the ultramarine’s translucency and the white’s ability to reflect light, thereby intensifying the blue color.

    Examination of the painting with infra-red reflectography (IRR) revealed hidden details about the making of the painting. A brush and ink were used to draw the basic details of the figures, arrange the composition, and establish deep shadows and dark passages. The contours of Mary’s facial features probably follow a cartoon the artist used repeatedly in his workshop. When it came time to paint Mary, Filippino made an adjustment to the angle of Mary’s head, bending it slightly closer towards the infant Christ [see Images].

    [Karen Thomas 2010]

  • Provenance

    ?Filippo Strozzi, Santuccio, near Florence (until d. 1491; inv., 1491); ?his son, Alfonso Strozzi, Florence (from 1491); ?Marcello Massarenti, Rome; [Nikolaus Steinmeyer, Cologne, until about 1900; sold to Martius]; Götz Martius, Kiel (about 1900–about 1920; sold to Van Diemen); [Van Diemen, Berlin, about 1920–23; sold to Duveen]; [Duveen, Paris, London, and New York, 1923–28; sold for $200,000 to Bache]; Jules S. Bache, New York (1928–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 11; 1943, no. 10)

  • Exhibition History

    Düsseldorf. location unknown. "Kunsthistorische Ausstellung," August 1904, no. 244 (as by Filippino Lippi, lent by Professor Götz Martius, Kiel).

    New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 216 (lent by the Jules S. Bache collection, New York).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bache Collection," June 16–September 30, 1943, no. 10.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Renaissance Masterpiece Revealed: Filippino Lippi's 'Madonna and Child'," January 15–April 25, 2011, no catalogue.

    Rome. Scuderie del Quirinale. "Filippino Lippi e Sandro Botticelli nella Firenze del '400," October 5, 2011–January 15, 2012, no. 24.

  • References

    Posthumous inventory of the contents of Filippo Strozzi's villa at Santuccio. 1491, c. 14 sin [Archivio di Stato, Florence, Carte Strozziane, V, 65; see Ref. Lillie 2005], lists "1 nostra donna in piano" among objects left to Filippo's son Alfonso, possibly this work.

    Auguste Marguillier. "L'exposition des maîtres anciens à Düsseldorf." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 32 (October 1904), p. 285, mistakenly refers to the artist as Filippo Lippi.

    Gustavo Frizzoni. "La mostra d'arte retrospettiva del 1904 a Düsseldorf." Rassegna d'arte 5 (January 1905), p. 6, fig. 7, states that, based on the coat of arms that appears on the capital, it was painted for a member of the Strozzi family; dates it about 1478, because he feels that it must have been painted toward the beginning of Filippino's relationship with the Strozzi family [which actually dates from 1487]; notes that it passed from a Roman prelate, possibly Marcello Massarenti, to Germany, where it was acquired by Martius.

    Paul Schubring. "Die kunsthistorische Ausstellung in Düsseldorf 1904, V: Die Madonna Strozzi von Filippino Lippi." Zeitschrift für christliche Kunst 18 (1905), cols. 97–100, pl. III, states that the color, light, and use of genre details are influenced by Hugo van der Goes's Portinari altarpiece (Uffizi, Florence) of about 1475; suggests that the picture was a gift for the second wedding of Filippo, eldest son of Filippo Strozzi, who remarried in Florence after returning from exile in Naples in 1479.

    Bernhard Berenson. The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1909, p. 148, lists it as by Filippino, in the Martius collection, Kiel.

    Joseph Archer Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. "Florentine Masters of the Fifteenth Century." A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century. 4, London, 1911, p. 293 n. 4, Douglas lists it among undoubted works by Filippino and states that it was "perhaps" made for a member of the Strozzi family.

    Adolfo Venturi. "La pittura del quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. 7, part 1, Milan, 1911, p. 674 n. 1, lists it among works attributed to Filippino.

    Bernard Berenson. Letter to Isabella Stewart Gardner. November 20, 1922, describes this painting, which Duveen had offered to Mrs. Gardner, as "the loveliest, the most delicate, & best preserved [Filippino] I've ever seen".

    A Collection of Ancient Paintings, Objects of Art and Modern Paintings. New York, 1925, unpaginated, unnumbered, ill.

    A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill.

    [Georg] Gronau in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 23, Leipzig, 1929, p. 270.

    Walter Heil. "The Jules Bache Collection." Art News 27 (April 27, 1929), p. 3, ill. p. 29.

    Georg Gronau. "Über zwei florentiner Madonnen des Quattrocento." Pantheon 6 (1930), pp. 512–13, ill., dates it about 1487; discusses it in connection with a copy by Piero di Cosimo in the royal collection, Stockholm; mentions a second copy by Raffaellino in the Gemäldegalerie, Mainz.

    H. E. Wortham. "The Bache Collection." Apollo 11 (May 1930), p. 352, mentions the influence of Botticelli.

    Raimond van Marle. "The Renaissance Painters of Florence in the 15th Century: The Third Generation." The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 12, The Hague, 1931, p. 318.

    Alfred Scharf. "Filippino Lippi and Piero di Cosimo." Art in America 19 (February 1931), pp. 61–62, fig. 2 (mistakenly labelled as Piero di Cosimo), dates it about 1487, stating confusingly that "by advancing the picture's date of origin, its relationship to the marriage of Filippini Strozzi to Selvaggia de' Gianfiggliazzi in 1484 is established".

    Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCII.

    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 286.

    Osvald Sirén. Italienska Tavlor och Teckningar i Nationalmuseum och andra Svenska och Finska Samlingar. Stockholm, 1933, pp. 64–65, ill.

    Lionello Venturi. "Fifteenth Century Renaissance." Italian Paintings in America. 2, New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 263.

    Alfred Scharf. Filippino Lippi. Vienna, 1935, pp. 26, 31–32, 108, no. 33, fig. 30, dates it about 1485 and considers it a test for the contract of 1487 to decorate the walls of the Strozzi chapel in Santa Maria Novella; suggests that the flat architectural background was influenced by contemporary relief sculpture.

    Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 246.

    A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 11, ill.

    Katharine B. Neilson. Filippino Lippi: A Critical Study. Cambridge, Mass., 1938, pp. 27, 68–72, 76, 114, 116, 119–20, 123, fig. 26, dates it about 1487 and believes it was probably commissioned by Filippo Strozzi, possibly for the oratory at his villa at Santuccio; notes that the background view is influenced by Netherlandish painting; suggests that the picture might derive from Botticelli's "Madonna of the Book" in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan.

    George Henry McCall. Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800: Masterpieces of Art. Exh. cat., World's Fair. New York, 1939, p. 106, no. 216, dates it about 1487 and states that "it is believed to have been painted on the occasion of the marriage of Filippini Strozzi to Selvaggia de' Gianfigliazzi".

    Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 112, ill., dates it about 1487.

    A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 10, ill.

    Walter Heil. "The Bache Paintings at the Metropolitan." Art News 42 (June–July 1943), p. 11.

    Alfred Scharf. Filippino Lippi. Vienna, 1950, pp. 21, 54, no. 57, pl. 57.

    Luciano Berti and Umberto Baldini. Filippino Lippi. Florence, 1957, pp. 84–85, no. 52.

    Federico Zeri. "Rivedendo Piero di Cosimo." Paragone 9 (July 1959), p. 45, dates it about 1485.

    Carlo L. Ragghianti. "Filippino Lippi a Lucca, l'Altare Magrini: nuovi problemi, nuove soluzioni." Critica d'arte 7 (January–February 1960), pp. 16–17, fig. 21 [reprinted in "Studi lucchesi," ed. Gigetta Dalli Regoli, (1990?), p. 190], dates it 1484–85.

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, p. 110.

    Luigi Grassi. Piero di Cosimo e il problema della conversione al Cinquecento nella pittura fiorentina ed emiliana. Rome, 1963, p. 38.

    Mina Bacci. Piero di Cosimo. Milan, 1966, p. 66, under no. 3, reports Longhi's opinion that this painting is a replica, only partly by Filippino himself, of a hypothetical original of 1475–80 that inspired Piero di Cosimo's copy in Stockholm.

    Everett Fahy. "The 'Master of the Naumburg "Madonna"'." Fogg Art Museum Acquisitions (1966–67), pp. 14, 17, attributes the picture in Mainz to the Master of the Naumburg Madonna.

    Everett Fahy. "Letter from New York: Florentine Paintings at the Metropolitan." Apollo 94 (August 1971), p. 152, fig. 5.

    Everett Fahy. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum: An Exhibition and a Catalogue." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 29 (June 1971), p. 434, ill., states that it was commissioned for the Strozzi family.

    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. 167–69, ill., date it about 1485 and state that it was probably commissioned by a member of the Strozzi family.

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 106, 325, 608.

    Guido Pampaloni. Palazzo Strozzi. Rome, 1974, p. 16, fig. 13 (cropped), believes that it was probably painted for Filippo Strozzi and tentatively agrees with a date of 1487–89.

    Mirella Levi d'Ancona. The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting. Florence, 1977, p. 541.

    Rollin van N. Hadley. "What Might Have Been: Pictures Mrs. Gardner Did Not Acquire." Fenway Court (1979), p. 53, no. 73, ill.

    J. Russell Sale University of Pennsylvania. Filippino Lippi's Strozzi Chapel in Santa Maria Novella. New York, 1979, pp. 110, 135 n. 28, fig. 40.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 234, 237, fig. 416 (color).

    Luciano Berti and Umberto Baldini. Filippino Lippi. Florence, 1991, pp. 63, 193, ill. p. 181 (color, reversed), date it about 1487–89, relating it to the artist's Nerli altarpiece in Santo Spirito, Florence, which they date about 1488.

    Anna Forlani Tempesti and Elena Capretti. Piero di Cosimo: catalogo completo. Florence, 1996, p. 107, mentions it in connection with Piero di Cosimo's version of the composition in Stockholm.

    Carmen Bambach in The Drawings of Filippino Lippi and His Circle. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997, pp. 26–28 n. 8, colorpl. 17, notes that infrared reflectography examination has revealed freehand underdrawing.

    Carlo Del Bravo. "Filippino e lo Stoicismo." Artibus et Historiae no. 37 (1998), p. 71.

    Jonathan Katz Nelson in Filippino Lippi. Milan, 2004, pp. 412, 467, 575 n. 98, includes it among works of art owned by Filippo Strozzi.

    Patrizia Zambrano in Filippino Lippi. Milan, 2004, pp. 35, 227, 302 n. 109, pp. 348–49, no. 33, ill. p. 348 and fig. 23 (color).

    Amanda Lillie. Florentine Villas in the Fifteenth Century: An Architectural and Social History. Cambridge, 2005, pp. 140, 143, 312 n. 28, figs. 114–15 (overall and detail), identifies it with a Madonna on panel listed in a posthumous inventory of the contents of Filippo Strozzi's (died 1491) villa at Santuccio, in which it is included among objects inherited by Filippo's eldest son, Alfonso; notes that the depiction of the spandrel with the Strozzi device of crescent moons in Lippi's painting corresponds exactly to the "sgraffito" decoration on the spandrels of the entrance loggia at the villa (fig. 96), although the columns and capitals of the painting are less closely related to those existing at Santuccio; adds that the background landscape in the painting is not an exact transcription of the setting of the villa but that the individual elements do relate in a general way to the countryside around Santuccio.

    Beatrice Paolozzi Strozzi in Palazzo Strozzi: cinque secoli di arte e cultura. Florence, 2005, pp. 62–63, 104 n. 29, ill. (color).

    Dennis Geronimus. Piero di Cosimo: Visions Beautiful and Strange. New Haven, 2006, pp. 188, 328 n. 76, fig. 145.

    Edith Gabrielli. Cosimo Rosselli: catalogo ragionato. Turin, 2007, pp. 56–57, 221, notes that the composition inspired Cosimo Rosselli's "Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist" (early 1490s; Musée Fesch, Ajaccio).

    Keith Christiansen in Filippino Lippi e Sandro Botticelli nella Firenze del '400. Exh. cat., Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome. Pero (Milan), 2011, pp. 148–51, no. 24, ill. (color, overall and detail), discusses the possible original placement of the painting in the chapel of Filippo Strozzi's villa at Santuccio, dating the work to about 1483–84 and commenting on the lavish use of lapis lazuli.

    Linda Wolk-Simon. "A New Painting by Perino del Vaga for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York." Burlington Magazine 153 (October 2011), p. 644, fig. 4 (color).

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History