Coronation of the Virgin, An Altarpiece by Fra Lippo Lippi

Coronation of the Virgin

In “Fra Lippo Lippi,” a dramatic monologue from Robert Browning’s 1855 Men and Women, the fifteenth-century artist Lippo Lippi, caught dashing through the streets of Florence after midnight, vehemently defends his naturalist theory of art. He promises his listeners that he will paint “Something in Sant' Ambrogio's” (346), and the painting he describes strongly resembles the “Coronation of the Virgin,” an altarpiece which the historical artist did in fact paint for Sant'Ambrogio, a Catholic church in Florence. Anticipating Browning’s dramatic insertion of himself as the voice of the poet in Books I and XII of The Ring and the Book (1868), Lippo Lippi announces that he will paint himself into the picture, for his artistic vision and skill has made these saints visible. Just as the Florentine Lippo Lippi found abundant subject matter in his city, Browning would later find similar poetic inspiration for The Ring and the Book in a Florentine marketplace stall.

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