FRA FILIPPO LIPPI
 IT was winter time in Florence. The tramontana,
that keen wind which blows from over the snow
mountains, was sweeping down the narrow streets,
searching out every nook and corner with its icy
breath. Men flung their cloaks closer round them,
and pulled their hats down over their eyes, so that
only the tips of their noses were left uncovered for
the wind to freeze. Women held their scaldinoes,
little pots of hot charcoal, closer under their shawls,
and even the dogs had a sad, half-frozen look.
One and all longed for the warm winds of spring
and the summer heat they loved. It was bad
enough for those who had warm clothes and plenty
of polenta, but for the poor life was very hard those
cold wintry days.
In a doorway of a great house, in one of the narrow
streets, a little boy of eight was crouching behind
one of the stone pillars as he tried to keep out of
the grip of the tramontana. His little coat was
folded closely round him, but it was full of rents and
holes so that the thin body inside was scarcely
covered, and the child's blue lips trembled with the
cold, and his black eyes filled with tears.
It was not often that Filippo turned such a sad
little face to meet the world. Usually those black
 eyes sparkled with fun and mischief, and the mouth
spread itself into a merry grin. But to-day, truly
things were worse than he ever remembered them
before, and he could remember fairly bad times, too,
if he tried.
Other children had their fathers and mothers who
gave them food and clothes, but he seemed to be
quite different, and never had had any one to care
for him. True, there was his aunt, old Mona
Lapaccia, who said he had once had a father and
mother like other boys, but she always added with
a mournful shake of her head that she alone had
endured all the trouble and worry of bringing him
up since he was two years old. 'Ah,' she would
say, turning her eyes upwards, 'the saints alone
know what I have endured with a great hungry
boy to feed and clothe.'
It seemed to Filippo that in that case the saints
must also know how very little he had to eat, and
how cold he was on these wintry days. But of
course they would be too grand to care about a
In summer things were different. One could
roll merrily about in the sunshine all day long, and
at night sleep in some cool sheltering corner of the
street. And then, too, there was always a better
chance of picking up something to eat. Plenty of
fig skins and melon parings were flung carelessly out
into the street when fruit was plentiful, and people
would often throw away the remains of a bunch
of grapes. It was wonderful how quickly Filippo
learned to know people's faces, and to guess who
 would finish to the last grape and who would throw
the smaller ones away. Some would even smile as
they caught his anxious, waiting eye fixed on the
fruit, and would cry 'Catch' as they threw a goodly
bunch into those small brown hands that never let
anything slip through their fingers.
Oh, yes, summer was all right, but there was always
winter to face. To-day he was so very hungry, and
the lupin skins which he had collected for his breakfast
were all eaten long ago. He had hung about
the little open shops, sniffing up the delicious smell
of fried polenta, but no one had given him a morsel.
All he had got was a stern 'be off' when he ventured
too close to the tempting food. If only this day
had been a festa, he might have done well enough.
For in the great processions when the priests and
people carried their lighted candles round the church,
he could always dart in and out with his little iron
scraper, lift the melted wax of the marble floor and
sell it over again to the candlemakers.
But there were no processions to-day, and there
remained only one thing to be done. He must go
home and see if Mona Lapaccia had anything to
spare. Perhaps the saints took notice when he was
Down the street he ran, keeping close to the wall,
just as the dogs do when it rains. For the great
overhanging eaves of the houses act as a sheltering
umbrella. Then out into the broad street that runs
beside the river, where, even in winter, the sun shines
warmly if it shines anywhere.
Filippo paused at the corner of the Ponte alla
 Carraja to watch the struggles of a poor mule which
was trying to pull a huge cartload of wood up the
steep incline of the bridge. It was so exciting that
for a moment he forgot how cold and hungry he was,
as he shouted and screamed directions with the rest
of the crowd, darted in and out in his eagerness to
help, and only got into every one's way.
That excitement over, Filippo felt in better spirits
and ran quickly across the bridge. He soon threaded
his way to a poor street that led towards one of the
city gates, where everything looked dirtier and more
cheerless than ever. He had not expected a welcome,
and he certainly did not get one, as, after climbing
the steep stairs, he cautiously pushed open the door
and peeped in.
His aunt's thin face looked dark and angry. Poor
soul, she had had no breakfast either, and there would
be no food that day unless her work was finished.
And here was this troublesome boy back again, when
she thought she had got rid of him for the day
'Away!' she shouted crossly. 'What dost thou
mean by coming back so soon? Away, and seek thy
living in the streets.'
'It is too cold,' said the boy, creeping into the bare
room, 'and I am hungry.'
'Hungry!' and poor Mona Lapaccia cast her eyes
upwards, as if she would ask the saints if they too
were not filled with surprise to hear this word. 'And
when art thou anything else? It is ever the same
story with thee: eat, eat, eat. Now, the saints help
me, I have borne this burden long enough. I will
see if I cannot shift it on to other shoulders.'
 She rose as she spoke, tied her yellow handkerchief
over her head and smoothed out her apron. Then
she caught Filippo by his shoulder and gave him a
good shake, just to teach him how wrong it was to
talk of being hungry, and pushing him in front of her
they went downstairs together.
'Where art thou going?' gasped the boy as she
dragged him swiftly along the street.
'Wait and thou shalt see,' she answered shortly;
'and do thou mind thy manners, else will I mind
them for thee.'
Filippo ran along a little quicker on hearing this
advice. He had but a dim notion of what minding
his manners might mean, but he guessed fairly well
what would happen if his aunt minded them. Ah!
here they were at the great square of the Carmine.
He had often crept into the church to get warm and
to see those wonderful pictures on the walls. Could
they be going there now?
But it was towards the convent door that Mona
Lapaccia bent her steps, and, when she had rung the
bell, she gave Filippo's shoulder a final shake, and
pulled his coat straight and smoothed his hair.
A fat, good-natured brother let them in, and led
them through the many passages into a room where
the prior sat finishing his midday meal.
Filippo's hungry eyes were immediately fixed on
a piece of bread which lay upon the table, and
the kindly prior smiled as he nodded his head
Not another invitation did Filippo need; like a
bird he darted forward and snatched the piece of
 good white bread, and holding it in both hands he
began to munch to his heart's content. How long
it was since he had tasted anything like this! It
was so delicious that for a few blissful moments he
forgot where he was, forgot his aunt and the great
man who was looking at him with such kind eyes.
But presently he heard his own name spoken
and then he looked up and remembered. 'And
so, Filippo, thou wouldst become a monk?' the prior
was saying. 'Let me see—how old art thou?'
'Eight years old, your reverence,' said Mona
Lapaccia before Filippo could answer. Which was
just as well, as his mouth was still very full.
'And it is thy desire to leave the world, and
enter our convent?' continued the prior. 'Art
thou willing to give up all, that thou mayest
become a servant of God?'
The little dirty brown hands clutched the bread
in dismay. Did the kind man mean that he was to
give up his bread when he had scarcely eaten half
'No, no; eat thy bread, child,' said the prior, with
an understanding nod. 'Thou art but a babe, but we
will make a good monk of thee yet.'
Then, indeed, began happy days for Filippo. No
more threadbare coats, but a warm little brown
serge robe, tied round the waist with a rope whose
ends grew daily shorter as the way round his waist
grew longer. No more lupin skins and whiffs of
fried polenta, but food enough and to spare; such
food as he had not dreamt of before, and always as
much as he could eat.
 Filippo was as happy as the day was long. He
had always been a merry little soul even when life
had been hard and food scarce, and now he would
not have changed his lot with the saints in Paradise.
But the good brothers began to think it was time
Filippo should do something besides play and
'Let us see what the child is fit for,' they said.
So Filippo was called in to sit on the bench with
the boys and learn his A B C. That was dreadfully
dull work. He could never remember the names of
those queer signs. Their shapes he knew quite
well, and he could draw them carefully in his copy-
book, but their names were too much for him. And
as to the Latin which the good monks tried to
teach him, they might as well have tried to teach a
All the brightness faded from Filippo's face the
moment a book was put before him, and he looked
so dull and stupid that the brothers were in despair.
Then for a little things seemed to improve. Filippo
suddenly lost his stupid look as he bent over the
pages, and his eyes were bright with interest.
'Aha!' said one brother nudging the other, 'the
boy has found his brains at last.'
But great indeed was their wrath and disappointment
when they looked over his shoulder. Instead
of learning his lessons, Filippo had been making all
sorts of queer drawings round the margin of the
page. The A's and B's had noses and eyes, and
looked out with little grinning faces. The long
music notes had legs and arms and were dancing
 about like little black imps. Everything was
scribbled over with the naughty little figures.
This was really too much, and Filippo must be
taken at once before the prior.
'What, in disgrace again?' asked the kindly old
man. 'What has the child done now?'
'We can teach him nothing,' said the brother,
shaking a severe finger at Filippo, who hung his
head. 'He cannot even learn his A B C. And
besides, he spoils his books, ay, and even the walls
and benches, by drawing such things as these upon
them.' And the indignant monk held out the book
where all those naughty figures were dancing over
The prior took the book and looked at it closely.
'What makes thee do these things?' he asked
the boy, who stood first on one foot and then on the
other, twisting his rope in his fingers.
At the sound of the kind voice, the boy looked
up, and his face broke into a smile.
'Indeed, I cannot help it, Father,' he said. 'It is
the fault of these,' and he spread out his ten little
The prior laughed.
'Well,' he said, 'we will not turn thee out, though
they do say thou wilt never make a monk. Perhaps
we may teach these ten little rascals to do good
work, even if we cannot put learning into that
round head of thine.'
So instead of books and Latin lessons, the good
monks tried a different plan. Filippo was given as
a pupil to good Brother Anselmo, whose work it was
 to draw the delicate pictures and letters for the
This was a different kind of lesson, indeed.
Filippo's eyes shone with eagerness as he bent over
his work and tried to copy the beautiful lines and
curves which the master set for him.
There were other boys in the class as well, and
Filippo looked at their work with great admiration.
One boy especially, who was bigger than Filippo,
and who had a kind merry face, made such beautiful
copies that Filippo always tried to sit next him if
possible. Very soon the boys became great friends.
Diamante, as the elder boy was called, was
pleased to be admired so much by the little new
pupil; but as time went on, his pride in his own
work grew less as he saw with amazement how
quickly Filippo's little brown fingers learned to
draw straighter lines and more beautiful curves than
any he could manage. Brother Anselmo, too, would
watch the boy at work, and his saintly old face
beamed with pleasure as he looked.
'He will pass us all, and leave us far behind, this
child who is too stupid to learn his A B C,' he
would say, and his face shone with unselfish joy.
Then when the boys grew older, they were
allowed to go into the church and watch those
wonderful frescoes, which grew under the hand of
the great awkward painter, 'Ugly Tom,' as he was
Together Filippo and Diamante stood and watched
with awe, learning lessons there which the good
father had not been able to teach. Then they
 would begin to put into practice what they had
learned, and try to copy in their own pictures the
work of the great master.
'Thou hast the knack of it, Filippo,' Diamante
would say as he looked with envy at the figures
Filippo drew so easily.
'Thy pictures are also good,' Filippo would
answer quickly, 'and thou thyself art better than
any one else in the convent.'
There was no complaint now of Filippo's dullness.
He soon learned all that the painter-monks could
teach him, and as years passed on the prior would
rub his hands in delight to think that here was an
artist, one of themselves, who would soon be able to
paint the walls of the church and convent, and make
them as famous as the convent of San Marco had
been made famous by its angelical painter.
Then one day he called Filippo to him.
'My son,' he said, 'you have learned well, and it is
time now to turn your work to some account. Go
into the cloister where the walls have been but
newly whitewashed, and let us see what kind of
pictures thou canst paint.'
With burning cheeks and shining eyes, Filippo
began his work. Day after day he stood on the
scaffolding, with his brown robe pinned back and
his bare arm moving swiftly as he drew figure after
figure on the smooth white wall.
He did not pause to think what he would draw,
the figures seemed to grow like magic under his
touch. There were the monks in their brown and
white robes, fat and laughing, or lean and anxious-
 minded. There were the people who came to say
their prayers in church, little children clinging to
their mothers' skirts, beggars and rich folks, even
the stray dog that sometimes wandered in. Yes,
and the pretty girls who laughed and talked in
whispers. He drew them all, just as he had often
seen them. Then, when the last piece of wall was
covered, he stopped his work.
The news soon spread through all the convent
that Brother Filippo had finished his picture, and all
the monks came hurrying to see. The scaffolding
was taken down, and then they all stood round,
gazing with round eyes and open mouths. They
had never seen anything like it before, and at first
there was silence except for one long drawn 'ah-h.'
Then one by one they began to laugh and talk,
and point with eager, excited fingers. 'Look,'
cried one, 'there is Brother Giovanni; I would know
his smile among a hundred.'
'There is that beggar who comes each day to ask
for soup,' cried another.
'And there is his dog,' shouted a third.
'Look at the maid who kneels in front,' said Fra
Diamante in a hushed voice, 'is she not as fair as
Then suddenly there was silence, and the brothers
looked ashamed of the noise they had been making,
as the prior himself looked down on them from the
'What is all this?' he asked. And his voice
sounded grave and displeased as he looked from the
wall to the crowd of eager monks. Then he turned
 to Filippo. 'Are these the pictures I ordered thee
to paint?' he asked. 'Is this the kind of painting to
do honour to God and to our Church? Will these
mere human figures help men to remember the
saints, teach them to look up to heaven, or help
them with their prayers? Quick, rub them out,
and paint your pictures for heaven and not for
Filippo hung his head, the crowd of admiring
monks swiftly disappeared, and he was left to begin
his work all over again.
It was so difficult for Filippo to keep his thoughts
fixed on heaven, and not to think of earth. He did
so love the merry world, and his fingers, those same
ten brown rascals which had got him into trouble
when he was a child, always longed to draw just
the faces that he saw every day. The pretty face
of the little maid kneeling at her prayers was so
real and so delightful, and the Madonna and angels
seemed so solemn and far off.
Still no one would have pictures which did not
tell of saints and angels, so he must paint the best
he could. After all, it was easy to put on wings and
golden haloes until the earthly things took on a
But the convent life grew daily more and more
wearisome now to Filippo. The world, which he
had been so willing to give up for a piece of good
white bread when he was eight years old, now
seemed full of all the things he loved best.
The more he thought of it, the more he longed
to see other places outside the convent walls, and
 other faces besides the monks and the people who
came to church.
And so one dark night, when all the brothers were
asleep and the bells had just rung the midnight
hour, Fra Filippo stole out of his cell, unlocked
the convent door, and ran swiftly out into the quiet
How good it felt to be free! The very street
itself seemed like an old friend, welcoming him with
open arms. On and on he ran until he came to the
city gates of San Frediano, there to wait until he
could slip through unnoticed when the gates were
opened at the dawn of day. Then on again until
Florence and the convent were left behind and the
whole world lay before him.
There was no difficulty about living, for the
people gave him food and money, and good-natured
countrymen would stop their carts and offer him a
lift along the straight white dusty roads. So by
and by he reached Ancona and saw for the first
time the sea.
Filippo gazed and gazed, forgetting everything
else as he drank in the beauty of that great stretch
of quivering blue, while in his ears sounded words
which he had almost forgotten—words which had
fallen on heedless ears at matins or vespers—and
which never had held any meaning for him before:
'And before the throne was a sea of glass, like unto
He stood still for a few minutes and then the
heavenly vision faded, and like any other boy he
forgot all about beauty and colour, and only longed
 to be out in a boat enjoying the strange new
Very lucky he thought himself when he reached
the shore to find a boat just putting of, and to hear
himself invited to jump in by the boys who were
going for a sail.
Away they went, further and further from the
shore, laughing and talking. The boys were so
busy telling wonderful sea-tales to the young
stranger that they did not notice how far they had
gone. Then suddenly they looked ahead and sat
speechless with fear.
A great Moorish galley was bearing down upon
them, its rows of oars flashed in the sunlight, and
its great painted sails towered above their heads. It
was no use trying to escape. Those strong rowers
easily overtook them, and in a few minutes Filippo
and his companions were hoisted up on board the
It was all so sudden that it seemed like a dream.
But the chains were very real that were fastened
round their wrists and ankles, and the dark cruel
faces of the Moors as they looked on smiling at
their misery were certainly no dream.
Then followed long days of misery when the new
slaves toiled at the oars under the blazing sun, and
nights of cold and weariness. Many a time did
Filippo long for the quiet convent, the kindly
brothers, and the long peaceful days. Many a time
did he long to hear the bells calling him to prayer,
which had once only filled him with restless
 But at last the galley reached the coast of Barbary,
and the slaves were unchained from the oars and
taken ashore. In all his misery Filippo's keen eyes
still watched with interest the people around him,
and he was never tired of studying the swarthy
faces and curious garments of the Moorish pirates.
Then one day when he happened to be near
a smooth white wall, he took a charred stick from
a fire which was built close by, and began to draw
the figure of his master.
What a delight it was to draw those rapid strokes
and feel the likeness grow beneath his fingers! He
was so much interested that he did not notice the
crowd that gathered gradually round him, but he
worked steadily on until the figure was finished.
Just as the band of monks had stood silent round
his first picture in the cloister of the Carmine, so
these dark Moors stood still in wonder and amazement
gazing upon the bold black figure sketched
upon the smooth white wall.
No one had ever seen such a thing in that land
before, and it seemed to them that this man must
be a dealer in magic. They whispered together, and
one went off hurriedly to fetch the captain.
The master, when he came, was as astonished as
the men. He could scarcely believe his eyes when
he saw a second self drawn upon the wall, more like
than his own shadow. This indeed must be no
common man; and he ordered that Filippo's chains
should be immediately struck off, and that he should
be treated with respect and honour.
Nothing now was too good for this man of magic,
 and before long Filippo was put on board a ship
and carried safely back to Italy. They put him
ashore at Naples, and for some little time Filippo
stayed there painting pictures for the king; but his
heart was in his own beloved town, and very soon
he returned to Florence.
Perhaps he did not deserve a welcome, but every
one was only too delighted to think that the runaway
had really returned. Even the prior, though
he shook his head, was glad to welcome back the
brother whose painting had already brought fame
and honour to the convent.
But in spite of all the troubles Filippo had gone
through, he still dearly loved the merry world and
all its pleasures. For a long time he would paint
his saints and angels with all due diligence, and
then he would dash down brushes and pencils, leave
his paints scattered around, and of he would go for
a holiday. Then the work would come to a stand-
still, and people must just wait until Filippo should
feel inclined to begin again.
The great Cosimo de Medici, who was always the
friend of painters, desired above all things that
Fra Filippo should paint a picture for him. And
what is more, having heard so many tales about the
idle ways of this same brother, he was determined
that the picture should be painted without any
'Fra Filippo shall take no holidays while at work
for me,' he said, as he talked the matter over with
'That may not be so easy as thou thinkest,' said
 the prior, for he knew Filippo better than did this
But Cosimo did not see any difficulty in the
matter whatever. High in his palace he prepared
a room for the painter, and placed there everything
he could need. No comfort was lacking, and when
Filippo came he was treated as an honoured guest,
except for one thing. Whenever the heavy door
of his room swung to, there was a grating sound
heard, and the key in the lock was turned from
outside. So Filippo was really a captive in his
That was all very well for a few days. Filippo
laughed as he painted away, and laid on the tender
blue of the Virgin's robe, and painted into her eyes
the solemn look which he had so often seen on the
face of some poor peasant woman as she knelt at
prayer. But after a while he grew restless and
weary of his work.
'Plague take this great man and his fine manners,'
he cried. 'Does he think he can catch a lark and
train it to sing in a cage at his bidding? I am
weary of saints and angels. I must out to breathe
the fresh sweet air of heaven.'
But the key was always turned in the lock and
the door was strong. There was the window, but
it was high above the street, and the grey walls,
built of huge square stones, might well have been
intended to enclose a prison rather than a palace.
It was a dark night, and the air felt hot as Filippo
leaned out of the window. Scarce a breath stirred
the still air, and every sound could be heard
dis-  tinctly. Far below in the street he could hear the
tread of the people's feet, and catch the words of a
merry song as a company of boys and girls danced
'Flower of the rose,
If I've been happy, what matter who knows,'
It was all too tempting; out he must get. Filippo
looked round his room, and his eye rested on the
bed. With a shout of triumphant delight he ran
towards it. First he seized the quilt and tore it
into strips, then the blankets, then the sheets.
'Whoever saw a grander rope?' he chuckled to
himself as he knotted the ends together.
Quick as thought he tied it to the iron bar that
ran across his window, and, squeezing out, he began
to climb down, hand over hand, dangling and
swinging to and fro. The rope was stout and good,
and now he could steady himself by catching his
toes in the great iron rings fastened into the wall,
until at last he dropped breathless into the street
Next day, when Cosimo came to see how the
painting went on, he saw indeed the pictures and
the brushes, but no painter was there. Quickly he
stepped to the open window, and there he saw the
dangling rope of sheets, and guessed at once how
the bird had flown.
Through the streets they searched for the missing
painter, and before long he was found and brought
back. Filippo tried to look penitent, but his eyes
 were dancing with merriment, and Cosimo must
needs laugh too.
'After all,' said Filippo, 'my talent is not like a
beast of burden, to be driven and beaten into doing
its work. It is rather like one of those heavenly
visitors whom we willingly entertain when they
deign to visit us, but whom we can never force
either to come or go at will.'
'Thou art right, friend painter,' answered the
great man. 'And when I think how thou and thy
talent might have taken wings together, had not
the rope held good, I vow I will never seek to keep
thee in against thy will again.'
'Then will I work all the more willingly,' answered
So with doors open, and freedom to come and go,
Filippo no longer wished to escape, but worked with
all his heart. The beautiful Madonna and angel
were soon finished, and besides he painted a
wonderful picture of seven saints with St. John sitting
in their midst.
From far and near came requests that Fra Filippo
Lippi should paint pictures for different churches
and convents. He would much rather have painted
the scenes and the people he saw every day, but he
remembered the prior's lecture, and still painted
only the stories of saints and holy people—the
gentle Madonna with her scarlet book of prayers,
the dove fluttering near, and the angel messenger
with shining wings bearing the lily branch. True,
the saints would sometimes look out of his pictures
with the faces of some of his friends, but no one
 seemed to notice that. On the whole his was a
happy life, and he was always ready to paint for
any one that should ask him.
THE ANNUNCIATION. BY FILIPPO LIPPI
Many people now were proud to know the famous
young painter, but his old companion Fra Diamante
was still the friend he loved best. Whenever it was
possible they still would work together; so, great
was their delight when one day an order came from
Prato that they should both go there to paint the
walls of San Stefano.
'Good-bye to old Florence for a while,' cried
Filippo as they set out merrily together. He
looked back as he spoke at the spires and sunbaked
roofs, the white marble facade of San Miniato, and
the dark cypresses standing clear against the pure
warm sky of early spring. 'I am weary of your
great men and all your pomp and splendour.
Something tells me we shall have a golden time
among the good folk of Prato.'
Perhaps it was the springtime that made Filippo
so joyous that morning as he rode along the dusty
Spring had come with a glad rush, as she ever
comes in Italy, scattering on every side her flowers
and favours. From under the dead brown leaves of
autumn, violets pushed their heads and perfumed all
the air. Under the grey olives the sprouting corn
spread its tender green, and the scarlet and purple
of the anemones waved spring's banner far and near.
It was good to be alive on such a day.
Arrived at Prato, the two painters, with a favourite
pupil called Botticelli, worked together diligently,
 and covered wall after wall with their frescoes.
It seemed as if they would never be done, for
each church and convent had work awaiting them.
'Truly,' said Filippo one day when he was putting
the last touches to a portrait of Fra Diamante, whom
he had painted into his picture of the death of St.
Stephen, 'I will undertake no more work for a while.
It is full time we had a holiday together.'
But even as he spoke a message was brought to
him from the good abbess of the convent of Santa
Margherita, begging him to come and paint an
altarpiece for the sisters' chapel.
'Ah, well, what must be, must be,' he said to
Fra Diamante, who stood smiling by. 'I will do
what I can to please these holy women, but after
The staid and sober abbess met him at the convent
door, and silently led him through the sunny
garden, bright with flowers, where the lizards darted
to right and left as they walked past the fountain
and entered the dim, cool chapel. In a low, sweet
voice she told him what they would have him paint,
and showed him the space above the high altar
where the picture was to be placed.
'Our great desire is that thou shouldst paint for
us the Holy Virgin with the Blessed Child on the
night of the Nativity,' she said.
The painter seemed to listen, but his attention
wandered, and all the time he wished himself back
in the sunny garden, where he had seen a fair
young face looking through the pink sprays of
 almond blossoms, while the music of the vesper
hymn sounded sweet and clear in his ears.
'I will begin to-morrow,' he said with a start
when the low voice of the abbess stopped. 'I will
paint the Madonna and Babe as thou desirest.'
So next day the work began. And each time
the abbess noiselessly entered the room where the
painter was at work and watched the picture grow
beneath his hand, she felt more and more sure that
she had done right in asking this painter to decorate
their beloved chapel.
True, it was said by many that the young artist
was but a worldly minded man, not like the blessed
Fra Angelico, the heavenly painter of San Marco;
but his work was truly wonderful, and his handsome
face looked good, even if a somewhat merry smile
was ever wont to lurk about his mouth and in his
Then came a morning when the abbess found
Filippo standing idle, with a discontented look upon
his face. He was gazing at the unfinished picture,
and for a while he did not see that any one had
entered the room.
'Is aught amiss?' asked the gentle voice at his
side, and Filippo turned and saw the abbess.
'Something indeed seems amiss with my five
fingers,' said Filippo, with his quick bright smile.
'Time after time have I tried to paint the face of
the Madonna, and each time I must needs paint it
Then a happy thought came into his mind.
'I have seen a face sometimes as I passed through
 the convent garden which is exactly what I want,' he
cried. 'If thou wouldst but let the maiden sit where
I can see her for a few hours each day, I can promise
thee that the Madonna will be finished as thou
The abbess stood in deep thought for a few
minutes, for she was puzzled to know what she
'It is the child Lucrezia,' she thought to herself.
'She who was sent here by her father, the noble
Buti of Florence. She is but a novice still, and there
can be no harm in allowing her to lend her fair face
as a model for Our Lady.'
So she told Filippo it should be as he wished.
It was dull in the convent, and Lucrezia was only
too pleased to spend some hours every morning,
idly sitting in the great chair, while the young
painter talked to her and told her stories while he
painted. She counted the hours until it was time to
go back, and grew happier each day as the Madonna's
face grew more and more beautiful.
Surely there was no one so good or so handsome
as this wonderful artist. Lucrezia could not bear to
think how dull her life would be when he was gone.
Then one day, when it happened that the abbess
was called away and they were alone, Filippo told
Lucrezia that he loved her and could not live without
her; and although she was frightened at first, she
soon grew happy, and told him that she was ready to
go with him wherever he wished. But what would
the good nuns think of it? Would they ever let
her go? No; they must think of some other plan.
 To-morrow was the great festa of Prato, when all
the nuns walked in procession to see the holy centola,
or girdle, which the Madonna had given to St. Thomas.
Lucrezia must take care to walk on the outside of
the procession, and to watch for a touch upon the
arm as she passed.
The festa day dawned bright and clear, and all
Prato was early astir. Procession after procession
wound its way to the church where the relic was to
be shown, and the crowd grew denser every moment.
Presently came the nuns of Santa Margherita. A
figure in the crowd pressed nearer. Lucrezia felt a
touch upon her arm, and a strong hand clasped hers.
The crowd swayed to and fro, and in an instant the
two figures disappeared. No one noticed that the
young novice was gone, and before the nuns thought
of looking for their charge Lucrezia was on her way
to Florence, her horse led by the painter whom she
loved, while his good friend Fra Diamante rode
Then the storm burst. Lucrezia's father was
furious, the good nuns were dismayed, and every
one shook their heads over this last adventure of
the Florentine painter.
But luckily for Filippo, the great Cosimo still
stood his friend and helped him through it all. He
it was who begged the Pope to allow Fra Filippo to
marry Lucrezia (for monks, of course, were never
allowed to marry), and the Pope, too, was kind and
granted the request, so that all went well.
Now indeed was Lucrezia as happy as the day
was long, and when the spring returned once more
 to Florence, a baby Filippo came with the violets
'How wilt thou know us apart if thou callest him
Filippo?' asked the proud father.
'Ah, he is such a little one, dear heart,' Lucrezia
answered gaily. 'We will call him Filippino, and
then there can be no mistake.'
There was no more need now to seek for pleasures
out of doors. Filippo painted his pictures and lived
his happy home life without seeking any more
adventures. His Madonnas grew ever more beautiful,
for they were all touched with the beauty that
shone from Lucrezia's fair face, and the Infant Christ
had ever the smile and the curly golden hair of the
THE NATIVITY. BY FILIPPIO LIPPI
And by and by a little daughter came to gladden
their hearts, and then indeed their cup of joy was full.
'What name shall we give the little maid?' said
'Methought thou wouldst have it Lucrezia,'
answered the mother.
'There is but one Lucrezia in all the world for
me,' he said. 'None other but thee shall bear that
As they talked a knock sounded at the door, and
presently the favourite pupil, Sandro, looked in.
There was a shout of joy from little Filippino, and
the young man lifted the child in his arms and
smiled with the look of one who loves children.
'Come, Sandro, and see the little new flower,' said
Filippo. 'Is she not as fair as the roses which thou
dost so love to paint?'
 Then, as the young man looked with interest
at the tiny face, Filippo clapped him on the
'I have it!' he cried. 'She shall be called after
thee, Alessandra. Some day she will be proud to
think that she bears thy name.'
For already Filippo knew that this pupil of his
would ere long wake the world to new wonder.
The only clouds that hid the sunshine of Lucrezia's
life was when Filippo was obliged to leave her for a
while and paint his pictures in other towns. She
always grew sad when his work in Florence drew
to a close, for she never knew where his next work
'Well,' said Filippo one night as he returned
home and caught up little Filippino in his arms,
'the picture for the nuns of San Ambrogio is finished
at last! Truly they have saints and angels enough
this time—rows upon rows of sweet faces and white
lilies. And the sweetest face of all is thine, Saint
Lucy, kneeling in front with thy hand beneath the
chin of this young cherub.'
'Is it indeed finished so soon?' asked Lucrezia, a
wistful note creeping into her voice.
'Ay, and to-morrow I must away to Spoleto to
begin my work at the Chapel of Our Lady. But
look not so sad, dear heart; before three months are
past, by the time the grapes are gathered, I will
But it was sad work parting, though it might only
be for three months, and even her little son could not
make his mother smile, though he drew wonderful
 pictures for her of birds and beasts, and told her he
meant to be a great painter like his father when
he grew up.
Next day Filippo started, and with him went his
good friend Fra Diamante.
'Fare thee well, Filippo. Take good care of him,
friend Diamante,' cried Lucrezia; and she stood
watching until their figures disappeared at the end
of the long white road, and then went inside to wait
patiently for their return.
The summer days passed slowly by. The cheeks
of the peaches grew soft and pink under the kiss of
the sun, the figs showed ripe and purple beneath the
green leaves, and the grapes hung in great transparent
clusters of purple and gold from the vines
that swung between the poplar-trees. Then came
the merry days of vintage, and the juice was pressed
out of the ripe grapes.
'Now he will come back,' said Lucrezia, 'for he
said ''by the time the grapes are gathered I will
The days went slowly by, and every evening she
stood in the loggia and gazed across the hills. Then
she would point out the long white road to little
'Thy father will come along that road ere long,'
she said, and joy sang in her voice.
Then one evening as she watched as usual her
heart beat quickly. Surely that figure riding so
slowly along was Fra Diamante? But where was
Filippo, and why did his friend ride so slowly?
When he came near and entered the house she
 looked into his face, and all the joy faded from her
'You need not tell me,' she cried; 'I know that
Filippo is dead.'
It was but too true. The faithful friend had
brought the sad news himself. No one could tell
how Filippo had died. A few short hours of pain
and then all was over. Some talked of poison. But
who could tell?
There had just been time to send his farewell to
Lucrezia, and to pray his friend to take charge of
So, as she listened, joy died out of Lucrezia's life.
Spring might come again, and summer sunshine
make others glad, but for her it would be ever cold,
bleak winter. For never more should her heart grow
warm in the sunshine of Filippo's smile—that
sunshine which had made every one love him, in spite
of his faults, ever since he ran about the streets,
a little ragged boy, in the old city of Florence.
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