Francesca, Piero della (1415/1420-1492)

"Francesca, Piero della (1415/1420-1492) " submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Wednesday 27th April 2011

Piero della Francesca, Italian painter, was born and died in Borgo San Sepolcro, Arezzo in 1415/1420 - 1492. His first noted works show the deep knowledge of Tuscanian art of the beginning of the 15th century, that is why it could be supposed that Piero lived in Florence for a long period, but documents fixed only one year, 1439, when he participated together with Domenico Veneziano in execution of the cycle of frescoes in the choir of the church Sant'Egidio (now lost). Francesca was profoundly interested in the laws of perspective and proportions, theorized by Alberti in the treatise Della pittura. Florentine experience gave the start to his very original creations: Battesimo di Cristo (1440-1445) (London, Nat.Gall.); Crocifissione; Santi Sebastiano e Giovanni Battista (Sansepolcro, Pin.Comunale); Polittico della misericordia (1445); the works with the finest contrast of light and shadow, and value of the golden background.

francesca federico da montefeltro francesca sacra francesca battistasforza

In 1451 Piero depicted the votive fresco of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta in Tempio Malatestiano in the city of Rimini; next year, on the death of Bicci di Lorenzo, he accepted to continue Bicci's series of frescoes Leggenda della vera Croce (see on the left: Adorazione del sacro legno and Incontro di Salomone con la regina di Saba) (1452-1462), only just initiated in the choir of San Francesco in the city of Arezzo.

The frescoes of Piero, executed in the middle of the century in Castello Estense and in Sant'Agostino in the city of Ferrara were lost; the frescoes in the Vatican palaces were destroyed 10 years later; so, the only prove of the great talent of the artist now is that cycle of frescoes depicted in Arezzo, where the Medieval legend of Sacred Wood was transformed in the spectacular liturgical action, and the holy character is given not only to the figures, but to the nature around them. Human beings and nature appear to be in an absolute agreement of proportions, according to laws of harmony and reason, the points giving perfection to this series of frescoes.
francesca leggenda
Close to them are surprising frescoes Flagellazione in the Palazzo Ducale di Urbino (1450-1460); Madonna del Parto in the chapel at the cemetery di Monterchi (circa1460); Resurrezione in San Sepolcro (1463).

Starting from the 60's of the 15th century the relations of the artist and the court of the city of Urbino are intensified. Urbino was the center of the "intellectual" art of the Renaissance, in its mathematical and rational inspiration, and meeting point of various artistic traditions.

For the Montefeltro's Piero depicted the portraits of Federico Montefeltro and Battista Sforza (pictured) and their "triumphs" in Dittico di Urbino (1465, Uffizi); as well as was created Sacra conversazione (see below) (1472-1474) (Pin.di Brera).

These works, among the greatest creations of Piero della Francesca and of the Italian art of 15th century, such as Madonna di Senigallia (Urbino, Gall.Naz.) and Nativita' (London, Nat.Gall.), reflect the new sensation of the value of the chromatics and light effects, as the element, that unifies the composition. During the last decades of activity, the deepening of the theoretic interests, stimulated by the cultural atmosphere of Urbino and relations with the great mathematician Luca Pacioli (inventor of book-keeping), pushed Piero to write the treatises De prospectiva pingendi and De quinque corporibus regularibus, where he intended to put in order of the geometric forms the endless variety of natural objects. As well as the painting activity, the theoretic activity of Piero della Francesca was founded on the certainty that exists the harmonic connection between the forms, and between the forms and the space.

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