Piero della Francesca is perhaps one of Italy’s greatest painters. An artist who mastered the technique of integrating his art with scientific principles.
In the history of Europe, the Renaissance is the period of rebirth. A time when a continent suppressed during the dark times of the Medieval Period was given a new lease of life. Europe awakened to the most awe-inspiring scientific, artistic, religious, philosophical and temperamental developments.
Towards the end of fourteenth century, Italy witnessed the birth of Renaissance. And at the heart of this cultural zenith, a modest painter by the name of Piero della Francesca became synonymous with the magnificence of Italian painting.
The Beginning of the Story
Piero della Francesca was born between 1410 and 1420 in Borgo San Sepolcro near Arezzo, in Italy. His father was a well-to-do tanner and shoemaker. Piero’s initiation into painting was early. At a fairly young age, he started painting the striped poles that were used to carry candles during religious processions. Moreover, it is believed that he even went to school, and studied painting under skilled artists who lived in San Sepolcro.
An Artist’s Accomplishment
By 1439, Piero della Francesca was painting frescos with Domenico Veneziano, for the hospital in Santa Maria Nuova in Florence. Unfortunately, these fresco cycles are now lost. However, his experience at Florence undoubtedly contributed to the development of an independent style. For, this was the city where worked Donatello, Brunelleschi, Masaccio, and Fra Angelico. Master artisans of the Italian Renaissance.
In 1452, Della Francesca began painting frescos detailing stories of the True Cross in the Church of St Francis in Arezzo. This work highlights his expert mastery of perspective and color and his geometric and pictorial skills.
Piero also worked in Rome, Ferrara, Arezzo, Rimini, Urbino, and Perugia.
Piero’s Distinct Style
Della Francesca’s religious paintings are noted for their clarity and serenity. He carefully studied perspective and geometry, and organized his paintings around these mathematical accuracies. His colors are arranged in patterns that carry the suggestion of a geometrical scheme. He deliberately ensured that his paintings are not cluttered, and that they suggest light and space. For he understood that this is pleasing to the eye. Such work is highly appreciated by the moderns.
- The Baptism
- Sigismondo Malatesta before St. Sigismund and the Portrait of Sigismondo
- Senigallia Madonna
- Double Portrait of Battista Sforza, Duchess of Urbino and Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino
- The Nativity
- Battle between Heraclius and Chosroes
- Constantine's Dream
- The Flagellation: This work is renowned for its use of linear perspective. It has been given the epithet 'the Greatest Small Painting in the World'.
- Pala Montefeltro: This has been considered by his best work by several critics.
It is believed that Piero della Francesca lost his eye sight in old age. Unable to paint, he turned to writing on painting and mathematics. De Prospectiva Pingendi details his views on the rules of perspective, and is an invaluable guide book for painters.
Della Francesca passed away on Oct. 12, 1492. But the paintings of one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance, live on.