If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Europe 1300 - 1800

Course: Europe 1300 - 1800 > Unit 3

Lesson 3: Painting in central Italy

Fra Filippo Lippi, Madonna and Child

Fra Filippo Lippi, Madonna and Child, c. 1440, tempera on panel, 79 x 51.1 cm / 31-1/8 x 20-1/8 inches (National Gallery of Art, Washington) Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker . Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

(upbeat piano music) Voiceover: We're in the National Gallery in Washington looking at a lovely little Filippo Lippi of a "Madonna and Child" from about 1440. I suppose, this just is so lovely to me. The beautiful soft curves of the headdress that she wearing framing her face. Voiceover: There's a kind of pathos in her face. Madonna's so often shown beautiful but troubled but her sense of fear and sadness comes across in such an incredibly tender and intimate way. And the way her hand holds him back protectively this is that terrible pointed moment. Voiceover: And looks out at us too, in a sort of way saying, "We all know what's going to happen." "We all know what this means, "but look at the price that I pay for this "as a mother." Voiceover: A little scorn. Voiceover: The other thing that I see with this is so obviously the early renaissance. The lessons of the 15th century. Mary becoming so much more human in the ways we just described. Christ looking so much more like a baby than he did painted 100 years earlier. Voiceover: The large head, chubby, not looking like a small man. Voiceover: Right Voiceover: But the artist, here Lippi, being comfortable with the notion that here we have God, this divine figure, in the body of a child. Now he's looking down and slightly to his right. Which suggests the original placement of this painting. Voiceover: And instead of that flat gold background that we'd have had 100 years earlier Lippi's created little niche for Mary to occupy So we have some sense of space around her. Very classical looking. And then that shadow that her body casts to the right. Voiceover: Yes. Voiceover: So we have a sense of real natural light coming from the left casting a shadow. A sense of her convincing three dimensionality here. She's not a flat ethereal figure anymore. Voiceover: It's really interesting. She has that sense of physicality. And this is such an expression of the 15th century, in the classical architecture. But also you are absolutely right in the way in which the shadow actually follows the complex contours of that architecture. You're absolutely right. Voiceover: The lesson of Masaccio. But on the other hand there's a kind of softness and lyrical quality to Lippi that isn't in Masaccio. To those beautiful little curves around her face... Voiceover: Or the Diaphanes-ness of that vail is just gorgeous... Voiceover: You can see how Lippi is Botticelli's teacher. This lovely gold foreshortened halo. Although now that gold is disappearing and the halo is disappearing. It's just sort of speckled with gold. Voiceover: In fact all the color is almost gem-like with a kind of gentle radiance. Voiceover: I love that he's on this little ledge, like a window ledge. Voiceover: Sometimes that's been read as a reference to the eventual entombment. But she holds him aloft from the tomb. You know she protects him from it with a kind of pillow. Voiceover: Hard to remember when you're looking at a painting in a museum, that it's probably been damaged or suffered some conservation efforts, that may have not been as good as we might have hoped. Voiceover: Well the painting's almost 600 years old. And it's gorgeous. Voiceover: It still is. (upbeat piano music)