What is the function of art and the artist in 'Fra Lippo Lippi'?
Like lots of Browning's poems the theme is one of art and specifically whether an artist can ever truly capture a person; 'Can't I take breath and try to add life's flash?' Essentially this is the artists' dilemma-how can anyone's humanity be captured on canvas? Can we ever hope to 'paint the souls of men'? Browning is also hinting that paintings may be censored; 'Rub all out' and that really the artist's task is essentially too difficult 'nature is complete: Suppose you reproduce her- (which you can't)'
Browning is also considering the commisioned artist who was often a religious figure i.e. a monk in this case and his task. The person commisioning the work may not be of good character but the artist still has to produce his best work.