Piero della Francesca: Artist and Man
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Largely neglected for the four centuries after his death, the fifteenth century Italian artist Piero della Francesca is now seen to embody the fullest expression of the Renaissance perspective painter, raising him to an artistic stature comparable with that of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
But who was Piero, and how did he become the person and artist that he was? Until now, in spite of the great interest in his work, these questions have remained largely unanswered. Piero della Francesca: Artist and Man integrates the story of Piero's artistic and mathematical achievements with the full chronicle of his life for the first time, fortified by the discovery of over one hundred previously unknown documents, most unearthed by the author himself.
The book presents us with Piero's friends, family, and collaborators, all set against the social background of the various cities and courts in which he lived - from the Tuscan commune of Sansepolcro in which he grew up, to Renaissance Florence, Ferrara, Ancona, Rimini, Rome, Arezzo, and Urbino, and eventually back to his home town for the final years of his life. As Banker shows, the cultural contexts in which Piero lived are crucial for understanding both the man and his paintings.
What emerges is a thoroughly intriguing Renaissance individual, firmly embedded in his social milieu, but forging an historic identity through his profound artistic and mathematical achievements.
have encouraged me in more ways than they can know. My wife Maureen has participated in all the stages of preparation of this volume, over decades in fact, and has shared with me its pleasures and labors. She is the most creative person I know, and I have learned much about artistic thinking and practice from her. She has also prepared the line drawings in this volume and has read every chapter more than once. I wish fervently to thank her. CONTENTS List of Platesxii List of
reflection and absorption, fascinated the generation of painters working in Florence in 1439, but Piero’s proximity to Domenico Veneziano must have been fundamental in his learning to appreciate the representation of light and its ability to focus the viewer’s attention on specific objects without losing any of the total pictorial environment.4 Piero eventually wrote three treatises on mathematics and perspective in painting. It has been suggested that besides Florentine influences in painting,
papal officials officially charged the Franciscans with juridical authority in the Holy Land and a direct responsibility for protecting and administering the holy sites, an authority that has persisted down to the present.18 Hence Piero had ample precedents in local Franciscan association with the Holy Land and the Cross in the presentation of the scenes of the cycle. Many of the subjects in the scenes of The Legend of the True Cross derive from two church feast days, the Feast of the Discovery
chapel. He balanced the narratives on one side of the chapel with narratives on the other, thereby integrating what might seem to be incongruent scenes. Piero arranged scenes on the right wall of persons who were not or not yet Christians (including the emperor in The Victory of Constantine, Illus. 6) whereas those on the left wall were believers in Christ (Illus. 5).20 He painted the tiers of the two sides with parallel narratives, most notably the procession of the Queen of Sheba with the
an outline with his brush end or some sharp implement.11 For the modern viewer the Madonna del Parto is Piero’s most eloquent painting. It “speaks” to moderns because of its combination of simplicity and majesty. Few images of Mary by Piero or other fifteenth-century painters possess the gravity of this young woman. The image seems to belong to no other narrative than that of a young woman managing her pregnancy with grace and poise. Here, as almost always, Piero endows human life with a