Study Guide

Fra Lippo Lippi Art and Culture

By Robert Browning

Art and Culture

"Fra Lippo Lippi" is all about what the definition of art is and who gets to define it. Lippo's idea of art seems to be that his type of realism elevates his subjects and makes people see the wonder in the everyday things they've passed by hundreds of times, but haven't really looked at twice. The Church's idea is that the painter shouldn't bother with getting the details right—that what matters is the entire impression and how the images should prompt people to pray and contemplate higher spiritual subjects. Browning engages in speculation relating to what makes up artistic objectivity and subjectivity. The poem is a highly ekphrastic one, which is a $10 word that basically means it's concerned with art and artistic representation.

Questions About Art and Culture

  1. Which passages describe scenes as if they are works of art? What is the effect of this?
  2. Do you find Lippo's or the Church's artistic philosophy to be more convincing? Why?
  3. Where do the Medicis fit into all of this as patrons of art? Where does Lippo seem to suggest his relationship to patrons of this sort?
  4. What is Lippo's relationship with Hulking Tom? How does this suggest an artistic lineage with Lippo as a sort of father?

Chew on This

Lippo makes a strong statement for breaking with artistic tradition.

Browning suggests that the viewers of Lippo's art are rather simplistic, since they appear to buy into the Church's viewpoint and not Lippo's.

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