Lucrezia Buti: the meeting with Fra’ Filippo

Lucrezia Buti, born in 1435 of Francesco Buti, a Florentine citizen, was sent to the Augustinian monastery of Saint Margaret in Prato by her family, where, along with her sister Spinetta, she was a “declared” sister beginning in 1454. It is probable that after the death of their father in 1450, the two girls were forced to take their vows – as often happened – by their brother Antonio, who remained as head of the large family of more than 11 people, just counting brothers and sisters. It was in the monastery that the fateful meeting occurred with Fra’ Filippo, who had been named chaplain of the convent at the beginning of 1456. Already well known for his weakness for female charms, the 50 year old Lippi was soon thunderstruck by the “beautiful looks and grace” of the young Lucrezia, and he convinced the nuns to let her pose for the panel he was painting for the monastery’s altar. This panel painting, today at the Civic Museum of Prato, represents ‘The Madonna giving Her Belt to Saint Thomas’ with Saints Gregory and Augustine, Tobias with the Angel, and Saint Margaret. Saint Margaret presents to the Virgin the donor of the painting, Sister Bartolommea del Bovacchiesi, the mother superior of the Convent. Probably the profile of Saint Margaret, much admired by Gabriele D’Annunzio, is the portrait of Lucrezia, which later figured in numerous madonnas of Lippi, among which is the celebrated ‘Lippina’ (c.1465) now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

The love story, which had provoked so much scandal among their contemporaries, is recorded by Vasari himself: “And with this occasion (of the painting) he fell so in love, that he did so much through practical means, that he managed to take Lucrezia from the Nuns, and to take her away exactly on the day she was going to see the showing of the Belt of the Our Lady, the honoured relic of that city.” Lucrezia apparently had left the convent to attend one of the regular showings of the Sacred Belt and the two took advantage of the occasion to go and live together in his (Lippi’s) house. This was in 1457. The historical texts reveal also that her sister Spinetta and three other Nuns left the Convent to move into the house of Lippi, but they all returned to the monastery following the great scandal and the great shame that fell upon their innocent fellow nuns and the pressure of their families and the Church.  back >


  The life of Filippo Lippi
Lucrezia Buti