In the main chapel in the church of Santo Stefano, otherwise known as Prato Cathedral, is one of the most important works of art of the whole Renaissance: the cycle of frescoes by Filippo Lippi showing ‘Le Storie dei Santi Stefano e Giovanni Battista’, or ‘Tales from the lives of Saint Stephen and Saint John the Baptist’.
These frescoes were carried out between 1452 and 1465 and provided a fundamental benchmark for the great Florentine artists of that century, both for the quality of the art work and their sheer scale. The frescoes depict tales from the lives of Saint Stephen, patron of the city of Prato and of the church itself, and Saint John the Baptist, in reference to the baptisms carried out in the church.
The vaulted chapel shows the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The left hand wall is dedicated to stories from the life of Saint Stephen and the right hand wall is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist.
The frescoes were painted using a very specific technique inspired by Late Gothic traditions that required large quantities of gold and blue lapis lazuli. Each episode is painted with great attention to perspective and with huge portraiture skills. The artist is able to exploit the physiology of the figures he paints in order to express a vast range of emotions.