Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Miracles of Prato -Fra Filippo Lippi

Prato Tuscany in the Fifteenth Century is the setting of this novel of historical fiction which often brings history to vivid life more than the dry facts could ever do.. It is a seamless story of the times of Fra Filippo Lippi and his love for the nun Lucrezia Buti. The power of the religious,so the review states, is slowly being waned by the rise of the merchants. This state of affairs is meaningless to Fra Filippo who depends on the Church and the Medicis for his artistic supplies. He is working on THE MADONNA OF PRATO and needs a muse. A beautiful orphan and her sister have arrived in Prato to become initiates of the convent of Santa Margherita and he just happens to be the chaplain. A coincidence, or prearranged event for the shaping of the painting? The religious life of 15th century Renaissance is richly depicted in the novel and the creation of works of art in this time frame. Artistic struggle and feeling is also put on our "reading canvas" for view. These elements are juxtaposed into the story in a blend of historical detail. Note the short bio and the comment of Vasari how Fra Filippo did not study but drew pictures.Frequent chronic poverty were the occasion of spending on frequent amours,so it is told or narrated. Ah, Vasari and the romantic adventures he relates of Fra Filippo.! Note his abduction of Lucrezia Buti.

The Miracles of Prato by Laurie Albanese & Laura Morowitz
Order: USA Can
William Morrow, 2009 (2009)Hardcover, e-Book
Read an Excerpt

Reviewed by Barbara Lingens
It's pretty unusual to read a novel written
by two authors, but I have to say (to my surprise) it works! In The Miracles of
Prato, authors Albanese and Morowitz present a seamless story of the life and
times surrounding Fra Filippo Lippi and his great love, the nun, Lucrezia
We are in the city of Prato, province of Tuscany, in the 15th century.
There are churches everywhere as well as convents and monasteries, but the power
of the religious is slowly being eaten away by the rise of the merchants.
To the
artist Fra Filippo Lippi, this means nothing. All he needs are his supplies, and
for that he depends on his supporters - the Church and the Medicis. Oh, and he
definitely needs a muse because he is working on what is to become one of his
most famous works, The Madonna of Prato.
A beautiful orphan and her sister have
just arrived in Prato to become initiates to the Convent of Santa Margherita
where he just happens to be the chaplain. And so begins the story
.Rich in details about the religious life in the 15th-century
Renaissance, this work is equally dazzling in its ability to make us understand
how it was to create works of art at that time.
We learn how paints are
mixed, what plants are used for color, how the paints are applied, how many
helpers an artist had to have to make the frescos and altarpieces. Best of all we see how the artist struggles to be able to paint
what it is he feels. Yet, this is not presented as a treatise, it's part of the
story, which makes a very satisfying juxtaposition to the intrigues of the
people. Artistic vision beautifully blended with historical detail make this a
truly interesting read.

Biography and works 1406-69
Lippi was born in Florence to Tommaso, a butcher. Both his parents died when he was still a child. Mona Lapaccia, his aunt, took charge of the boy. In 1420 he was registered in the community of the Carmelite friars of the Carmine in Florence, where he remained until 1432, taking the Carmelite vows in 1421 when he was sixteen.[1] In his Lives of the Artists, Vasari says: "Instead of studying, he spent all his time scrawling pictures on his own books and those of others." The prior decided to give him the opportunity to learn painting.
Eventually Fra Filippo quit the monastery, but it appears he was not released from his vows; in a letter dated 1439 he describes himself as the poorest friar of Florence, charged with the maintenance of six marriageable nieces. In 1452 he was appointed chaplain to the convent of S. Giovannino in Florence, and in 1457 rector (Rettore Commendatario) of S. Quirico in Legania, and made occasional, considerable profits; but his poverty seems chronic, his money being spent, according to one account, in frequent amours.
Vasari relates some romantic adventures of Fra Filippo that modern biographers are not inclined to believe. Except through Vasari, nothing is known of his visits to Ancona and Naples, nor of his capture by Barbary pirates and enslavement in Barbary, where his skill in portrait-sketching helped to release him.[2] From 1431 to 1437 his career is not accounted for.

In June 1456 Fra Filippo is recorded as living in Prato (near Florence) to paint frescoes in the choir of the cathedral. In 1458, while engaged in this work, he set about painting a picture for the convent chapel of S. Margherita of Prato, where he met Lucrezia Buti, the beautiful daughter of a Florentine, Francesco Buti; she was either a novice or a young lady placed under the nuns' guardianship. Lippi asked that she might be permitted to sit for the figure of the Madonna (or perhaps S. Margherita). Under that pretext, Lippi engaged in sexual relations with her, abducted her to his own house, and kept her there despite the nuns' efforts to reclaim her

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