Italy’s 150th anniversary year is being celebrated, and many exhibitions have been devoted to the founding of the Republic. Birthdays for people last just one day, but for countries with centenaries and sesquicentenaries they last a year–way too long. The current government makes it all feel like a cruel joke. The Filippino Lippi and Sandro Botticelli show at the Scuderie del Quirinale is something to celebrate. It opened on 5 October and runs through 15 January 2012.
Although the exhibition is called Filippino Lippi e Sandro Botticelli, it is much more of a Filippino Lippi show. There are documents in display cases throughout the exhibition that cover his earliest childhood, his early work with his father at Spoleto, his apprenticeship in Sandro Botticelli’s shop (Filippino’s early work was mistaken for Botticelli’s, then ascribed to the “Amico di Sandro” an invention of Berenson, before being correctly attributed to the young Filippino), letters of recommendation, detailed contracts, and at the end an inventory of the contents of house after his death. In the exhibition there are also works by Filippo Lippi, Benedetto da Maiano, Rafaellino del Garbo, Piero di Cosimo and others.
Most of the 20+ drawings in the exhibition are from the Uffizi, although there are some loans from France and the UK. The drawings are interspersed with the paintings in the galleries, and it’s wonderful to see a picture within eye shot of a preparatory drawing. The drawings are nearly all by Filippino, and are mostly metalpoints with white heightening. The papers are prepared and in shades of rose or gray or “light hazelnut” as it says in the catalogue. In some cases there are more white lines than stylus lines. What seems most extraordinary is the sense of movement, the animation of the figures. Metalpoints of many other artists are staid and serene. Filippino’s pen and ink drawings also have a wonderful feeling of being rapidly done and that rapidity emphasizes the rush and purposefulness of the figures.
Alessandro Cecchi, Director of the Pitti Gallery in Florence, curated the exhibition and wrote the biographical essay for the cataglogue. Its title Filippino Lippi, un pittore per tutte le stagioni or in English, Filippino Lippi, a Painter for All Seasons, sums it up. From a quick reading of what’s online for the press, these were some of the points, Filippino was liked by the different factions in Florence; counted Lorenzo il Magnifico, the Strozzi, the Del Pugliese as patrons; worked on sacred and profane subjects; didn’t fall into Savonarola’s web as Botticelli did; was held in such esteem that he was asked to complete Masaccio’s Brancaccio Chapel fresco cycle; produced designs for decorative arts and temporary funerary works; worked in and out of Florence–importantly at the Carafa chapel in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva here in Rome. The hardcover catalogue costs €49 (€39 if bought at the exhibition) and I’m hoping it will come out in paperback.