On this day in 1452, Florentine painter Fra Filippo Lippi is documented as promising to finish this tondo for Leonardo di Bartolommeo Bartolini by December 8 — a commitment he failed to keep. (It was still incomplete in April 1453.) The painting shows the Virgin and Child with Scenes from the Life of the Virgin (now at the Pitti in Florence) and is reputed to be the first example of a Marian image on a round painting, a format previously used only for decorative trays.

Lippi has placed Mary’s face at the center of the circle, and she looks directly at the viewer, to whom she presents the Christ Child. In the background, her parents celebrate news of her conception at the right, while her mother, St. Anne, rests after giving birth to the future mother of God. Renaissance viewers would have understood these three scenes to have taken place over time. Such storytelling is known as “continuous narrative,” which was quite common in fifteenth-century Italian painting.

Reference: Eliot W. Rowlands and Marilyn Bradshaw. “Lippi.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.

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