Adoration of the Child with Saints John the Baptis

Filippo Lippi

Staatliche Museen

The iconography of the altarpiece painted by Filippo Lippi for the Medici chapel is fairly complex, evoking the themes of the Incarnation, the Passion and penitence.
The scene is set in a wild and rocky landscape; the figures are drenched in divine light and set against the twilight of a dense, deep woodland between craggy rocks and dry stumps severed by the axe in the foreground. The Child lies upon a patch of verdant grass in which white and red roses and white lilies grow, the attributes of the Virgin Mary who is kneeling in adoration. Next to Jesus a goldfinchprefigures the Passion. The absence of Saint Joseph, Mary’s husband and the legal father of Jesus, underscores Mary’s virgin birth through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. In fact, appearing at the top of the composition are God the Father and the dove of the Holy Spirit who, with the Son made flesh, make up the Most Holy Trinity
In the background at the extreme right are two storks, one of them eating a serpent, as an allegory of good triumphing over evil. In the vicinity the brook of clear water running between the rocks alludes to divine grace.
On the left, attending the scene is the young John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence, and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, founder of the Cistercian order. Both figures, who experienced the life of the hermit represented by the harsh, dark landscape illuminated solely by the divine light, appear to indicate to the faithful the path of penitence as the only way to redemption.


Works in Italy
Works around the world