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Botticelli on Fra Lippi's Sin

I was immersed in Boccaccio’s Decameron.…

“What amuses you, Caterina?” Sandro asked while cleaning his brushes.

“In almost every story, there is a lustful friar, monk or abbot. I never witnessed such things at Le Murate. Can it be true that such activities take place in convents and monasteries?”

He began to laugh. ”I know it for a fact.”

“What? Tell me! Tell me what you know.”

He took up some paper and charcoal and began to sketch me as he spoke. “My mentor, my teacher, the finest painter of his generation, Fra Lippi, was as lustful and disreputable as a man could be. He was raised to be a holy friar, but was constantly in trouble for gambling and wenching. But his talent was undeniable, his paintings so beautiful, that most patrons willingly ignored his reputation.”

I made myself comfortable, enjoying this story as much as any from Boccaccio.

“He was commissioned to paint an altarpiece for Le Murate of the Holy Mother and Child, and chose as his model a beautiful young novitiate, who he gradually seduced over the course of a few weeks, and got her with child. When discovered, they ran off together and she bore him a son.” He finished the sketch as the light was fading. “So. To answer your question, yes….there is much iniquity in the church and such things are quite common.”



Fra Filippo Lippi's son (by his novitiate model), Filippino Lippi, who also became an artist

1 Comment


C.L H
C.L H
May 01

Such stories I was told by an excellent professor while studying the Fine Arts in Firenze, in 1976. I was very fortunate, that in our class, which was conducted in Italian, I was one of the only ones who had any knowledge of the language, and so I became fast friends with the professor and as we strolled with the class through the streets of Firenze, I was treated to all the juicy tales behind the beautiful works of art. Art.. is history. My favorite period is from the 1300s to the 1500s. I never tire of looking at these images, or remembering the stories behind them. The artists were often ahead of their time and so freer and maybe…

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Jimi Hendrix
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