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Saint Bernard's Vision of the Virgin
Fra Filippo Lippi
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This panel shows a twelfth-century monk, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, having a vision of the Virgin Mary. It is shaped like an ‘overdoor’ – a picture designed to hang above a doorway – and was probably made to decorate the Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall) in Florence; Saint Bernard was patron saint of the building.

Here we see Bernard wearing a simple hooded cloak, seated in a rocky wooded setting. He has retreated there to read, write and immerse himself in spiritual contemplation; craggy rocks serve as a seat and desk. The paint surface is very worn but very faint traces of a pen – in his right hand – are still visible and his ink stand sits on top of his writing box.

Lippi’s son Filippino made a painting of this subject in which the Virgin is clearly dictating to the saint – our picture probably tells the same story.

Key facts
Artist Fra Filippo Lippi
Artist dates born about 1406; died 1469
Full title Saint Bernard's Vision of the Virgin
Date made 1447
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 94.3 x 106 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1854
Inventory number NG248
Location in Gallery Gallery A: Paintings 1250-1600
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