New Insights into Filippo Lippi's Alessandri Altarpiece

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Abstract

The cult of saints-physicians Cosmas and Damian in Florence has been strongly associated with the Medici family, especially Cosimo the Elder. However, while Medici commissions for private and public display featuring these saints revealed much about the family’s devotional proclivities, the extent of, and responses to, this veneration in the context of the city’s political and social milieu remains understudied. The altarpiece Saint Lawrence Enthroned with Saints Cosmas and Damian and Donors, also known as the Alessandri altarpiece, is now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is indicative of a complex set of relationships within the civic and religious life of Florence that resulted in the veneration for Saints Cosmas and Damian being more deeply interwoven in the city’s cultural and devotional life than has previously been suggested. Thanks to a corpus of documents housed in the Archives of the Opera del Duomo in Florence, this research note brings to the fore an expanded understanding of Alessandro Alessandri’s influence as an art patron. It further sheds light on the substantial role of the Medici and coeval Florentine culture in forming Alessandri’s sensitivity and piety for the saints-physicians in the first half of the quattrocento, and specifically during the years of the construction of Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome. In doing so it provides context for the commission of the Alessandri altarpiece and elucidates the significance of the painting for the family.

Connecting the Alessandri family history with contemporary devotional practices in Florence allows for a new hypothesis that the saint depicted to the right of Saint Lawrence is Saint John Gualbert, not Saint Benedict. Saint John Gualbert was likely the onomastic saint of Alessandri’s first son, Giovanni.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-133
Number of pages14
JournalThe Metropolitan Museum Journal
Volume57
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

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