Filippino Lippi Christ on the Cross


Museo del Palazzo Pretorio di Prato


1500 - 1504


235 x 312 mm



historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

Filippino Lippi’s work is dated between 1500-1504 and it is a replica of smaller dimensions of the Crucifixion with the Virgin and St. Francis (situated in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin and destroyed in the 1945 bombardments). The artwork is the central panel of the altar in the Francesco Valori chapel in Florentine church of San Procolo (1498-1500). The unusual compositional simplicity of the panel is following the same stylistic line of friar Girolamo Savonarola. He was a Dominican friar and a contemporary of Filippino. He preached in Florence denouncing the corruption and decadence of the church and he had a strong influence on the Florentines and the government of the city, even after his execution in May 1498. As in the Florentine work, in this small panel the blood of the Christ is clearly visible which was an unusual feature for a painting at the time. Filippino depicted Christ with dripping wounds on his side, hands, chest and forehead. As well as the presence of blood, the black background with the sole figure of the savior gives austerity to the work, remaining perfectly in line with the Savonarola’s view on art. Filippino used gold only for the halo, inscription on the cross and in the decoration on the Christ’s garment, keeping in minimum the superfluous ornaments. Christ is represented at the height of his sufferings, corresponding to Savonarola’s portrait of him in his writings Treatise on the Love of Jesus Christ. The skills of the master from Prato can be seen in small details, such as the folds of the skin on the foot, which show the weight of the suspended body, the curls and the foreshortened halo. The intense sentimentality of the painting together with its dimension suggest the work was commissioned by a private client, probably by a follower of Savonarola. In the beginning of the 1920s’ the work was in Berlin. In 1933 it was brought to Florence by art dealer Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, who sold it the same year to Simon Guggenheim in New York. In 1955 it was bought to the collection of the Denver Art Museum. In 2010 it was put on Christie’s auction and in this occasion, it was bought by the city of Prato to return in its original location.

Artist Details

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Filippo Lippi was born in Prato in 1457, son of Filippo Lippi, a Carmelite friar of the Order of the Carmine of Florence and Lucrezia Buti. The son was called “Filippino” with diminutive to distinguish him from his father.

His father was a famous painter who worked in Florence, Padua, Prato and Spoleto, mastering a style that became very popular among the main artists of the Laurentian age.

Filippino first studied in his father’s workshop and at the age of fourteen he went under Sandro Botticelli, who had also been his father’s student.

In Botticelli’s workshop (1472) he studied his refined and elegant style with rhythmic and dynamic use of lines and his paintings of this period are very much influenced by Botticelli’s work. Among them are the Madonnas of Berlin, London and Washington, the Three archangels and Tobias in the Galleria Sabauda of Turin, Madonna del Mare in the Galleria dell’Accademia and the chests with the Stories of Ester, Stories of Lucrezia and Stories of Virginia, made between 1475 and 1480. The same year, 1480, he enrolled in the Compagnia di San Luca and painted the Annunciation, now conserved in the Galleria dell’Accademia of Florence.

Between 1482 and 1485 Filippino completed the cycle of frescoes with the Stories of St. Peter in the Brancacci chapel in the church of Carmine in Florence, which were left unfinished by Masolino da Panicale and Masaccio sixty years before. Filippino was probably chosen for his stylistic loyalty for his father, who studied under Masaccio. He committed to complete the lower section of the frescoes by painting the Dispute of Simon Magus, the Crucifixion of St. Peter, the Resurrection of the Son of Theophilus, St. Peter in Prison Visited by St. Paul and the Liberation of St. Peter. The overall result was harmonious.

In the following two years, Filippino painted the Otto altarpiece for Palazzo Vecchio and the Apparition of the Virgin to St. Bernard for the convent of the Campora outside Porta Romana, now conserved in the Badia Fiorentina. On his way to Rome he stopped in Spoleto, where his father died in 1469, to bring his father’s remains in Florence as he wanted him to be buried in the cathedral of Florence. Lorenzo the Magnificent approved his request.

Filippino was called to Rome by cardinal Oliviero Carafa in 1488, who wanted him to paint the frescoes in his family chapel in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. During his stay in Rome he deepened his knowledge on ancient art. He saw the frescoes of Melozzo da Forlì and Pinturicchio, whose works inspired him to develop his personal style by adding references to ancient Rome and wise quotations. He returned from Rome in 1491 and participated in the competition to decorate the façade of the Duomo of Florence. He continued to paint the cycle of frescoes for the Filippo Strozzi chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella, which he had stared before his trip to Rome, completing it in 1502. The decorated windows of the chapel were added in 1503, after the death of the commissioner. They were designed by Filippino, with decorations of Madonna and Child, two angels and Saints Philip and John.

When Filippino returned in Florence in 1492, he produced numerous altarpieces such as the Apparition of Christ (1493, Munich), Madonna with Child and Saints in the church of Santo Spirito, the Adoration of the Magi in the church of San Domenico in Scopeto, conserved today in Gallerie degli Uffizi.

In his last period Filippino proved to be one the greatest interprets of the formalistic and classical style that was developing in Florence at the time. After the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the city was left with restless and spiritual atmosphere and Savonarola’s preaching had driven many artists towards ascetic style. In 1501 Filippino painted the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine of Alexandria for the church of San Domenico in Bologna. Two years later, the city of Prato commissioned the altarpiece of the Town Hall, Madonna with Child and Saints (Pala dell’Udienza), now kept in the Civic Museum of Prato.

Filippino died in Florence in 1504 and he was buried behind the church of San Michele Visdomini, as remembered on a memorial plaque that has been added afterwards.

Collection Details

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Prato’s Museo Civico is situated in the Palazzo Pretorio, in Piazza del Comune at the city center.

The first documents of the Palazzo date back to the end of the 13th century, when captain of the Guelfs, Francesco de’ Frescobaldi decided to purchase the building already owned by Pipini, to house the foreign magistrates, the court and the prisons. Between 1334 and 1338 the building was enlarged by Florentine craftsmen and the medieval appearance was changed. During the following centuries and especially in the 18th century a series of improvements were implemented finally until the late 19th century, when the building came under the demolition threat.

In 1912 an important restoration work led to the opening of the Galleria Comunale, which was previously housed in the Palazzo del Comune. The last restoration started in 1998 and it was finished in 2013. In September of the same year the museum reopened with the exhibition “From Donatello to Lippi. Officina pratese”.

The historical origins of the museum are linked to the decision of the grand duke of Tuscany, Leopold II, who wanted to create a collection of paintings for the students of the city’s drawing school (1788).

The collection was enriched thanks to various donations and purchases, until the official inauguration of the first exhibition organized by Giovanni Papini in 1912.

In 1926, thanks to Angiolo Badiani’s initiative, the State museum received their first assemblage of plaster casts by local sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini and in 1954 the museum was reopened with new layout, designed by Giuseppe Marchini.

In the late 1980s’ the gallery was closed for restoration work. During these years of improvements, the museum purchased the Crucifixion by Filippino Lippi and the altarpieces by Santi di Tito and Alessandro Allori were donated to the museum by Angela Riblet.

The museum holds many artworks, ranging from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Among these there are the polyptych with the Stories of the Cintola by Bernardo Daddi, polyptychs by Giovanni da Milano and Lorenzo Monaco, Filippo Lippi’s Madonna del Ceppo and the Adoration of the Child and Vincenzo Ferrer, Filippino Lippi’s Annunciation with St. Julian, Mattia Preti’s Repudiation of Agar and the Cabins by Ardengo Soffici.

The collection includes also an important assemblage of sculptures of the most important artists of the time, among them Andrea della Robbia and Benedetto Buglioni.