New Insights into Filippo Lippi's Alessandri Altarpiece

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The Alessandri altarpiece is a prime example of an image fashioned in celebration of the donor’s family and identity. Although the painting found early recognition in Vasari’s accounts on the life of its painter, Fra Filippo Lippi, much about the identity of Alessandri’s two sons, prominently depicted in the altarpiece, and that of one of the side saints, remains shrouded in ambiguity. This article explores documents of the Opera del duomo of Florence in the years when Brunelleschi’s dome was built and when the patron of the altarpiece, Alessandro Alessandri, was involved in the enterprise, and provides new understanding of the context in which the altarpiece was commissioned. In discussing the significance of the saints represented, it reveals more complex evidence for the Alessandri’s piety for Saints Cosmas and Damian than their loyalty to Cosimo de’ Medici. Lastly, it proposes that the saint tentatively identified as Saint Benedict may be Saint John Gualbert, likely chosen as Giovanni Alessandri’s onomastic saint. John Gualbert’s growing devotion in Florence was bolstered by the commission of imagery and rituals related to the feast of this saint. The representation of Giovanni Alessandri’s saint protector in the altarpiece underscores his burgeoning role in the political and religious life of the city shortly before his premature death in 1439.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-133
Number of pages14
JournalThe Metropolitan Museum Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


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