The fifteenth century Italian artist Piero della Francesca is now seen to embody the fullest expression of the Renaissance perspective painter. Yet until now we have known very little about Piero the man, and his biography has remained something of an enigma. This book puts that situation right, bringing together the story of Piero's artistic and mathematical achievements with the story of his life for the first time. Fortified by the discovery of over one hundredpreviously unknown documents, most unearthed by the author himself, James R. Banker at last brings this fascinating Renaissance enigma to life.
The fifteenth-century Italian artist Piero della Francesca painted a familiar world. Roads wind through hilly landscapes, run past farms, sheds, barns, and villages. This is the world in which Piero lived. At the same time, Piero’s paintings depict a world that is distant. The subjects of his pictures are often Christian and that means that their setting is the Holy Land, a place Piero had never visited. The Realism of Piero della Francesca studies this paradoxical aspect of Piero’s art. It tells the story of an artist who could think of the local churches, palaces, and landscapes in and around his hometown of Sansepolcro as miraculously built replicas of the monuments of Jerusalem. Piero’s application of perspective, to which he devoted a long treatise, was meant to convince his contemporaries that his paintings report on things that Piero actually observed. Piero’s methodical way of painting seems to have offered no room for his own fantasy. His art looks deliberately styleless. This book uncovers a world in which painting needed to validate itself by cultivating the illusion that it reported on things observed instead of things imagined by the artist. Piero’s painting claimed truth in a world of increasing uncertainties.
In Search of Piero della Francesca: A Renaissance Painter and the Revolution in Art, Science and Religion
Author: Larry Witham
Publisher: Open Road Media
Category: Biography & Autobiography
An innovative painter in the early generation of Renaissance artists, Piero dell Francesca was also an expert on religious topics and a mathematician who wanted to use perspective and geometry to make painting a “true science.” Although only sixteen of Piero’s works survive, few art historians doubt his importance in the Renaissance. A 1992 conference of international experts meeting at the National Gallery of Art deemed Piero “one of the most highly regarded painters of the early Renaissance, and one of the most respected artists of all time.” In recent years, the quest for Piero has continued among intrepid scholars, and Piero’s Light uncovers the life of this remarkable artistic revolutionary and enduring legacy of the Italian Renaissance.
Piero della Francesca's Madonna del Parto, a celebrated fifteenth-century Tuscan fresco in which the Virgin gestures to her partially open dress and her pregnant womb, is highly unusual in its iconography. Hubert Damisch undertakes an anthropological and historical analysis of an artwork he constructs as a childhood dream of one of humanity's oldest preoccupations, the mysteries of our origins, of our conception and birth. At once parodying and paying homage to Freud's seminal essay on Leonardo da Vinci, Damisch uses Piero's enigmatic painting to narrate our archaic memories. He shows that we must return to Freud because work in psychoanalysis and art has not solved the problem of what is being analyzed: in the triangle of author, work, and audience, where is the psychoanalytic component located?
The life and influence of Piero della Francesca form the focus of this book, rather than his artworks. James Banker recreates life in the small Tuscan town of San Sepolcro, Piero's birthplace, in the early 15th century arguing that it was the culture, religion and socio-political environment of this town that had the most profound effect on the artist and his work. Banker searches unpublished archival material, notarial contracts and a number of other social and legal exchanges, to explore the realms of education, authority, political change, artisans and patrons in San Sepolcro as well as examining the influence of Piero's family on their famous and talented son.
PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA One of the major artists of the Quattrocento, Piero della Francesca, who died in 1492, turned mathematics and perspective into a mysticism of space and light. Piero's graceful planar geometry was a precursor of Cubism and 20th century abstraction. Naomi Haskell concentrates on Piero's series of monumental Madonnas, the magnificent Madonna della Misericordia and the mysterious pregnant Goddess, the Madonna del Parto, also his Arezzo fresco cycle, the Resurrection, and the enigmatic Flagellation. Piero della Francesca has one of the most special and distinctive forms of space in painting. The bright, timeless spaces of Piero della Francesca are instantly recognizable, and critics sometimes evoke Greek sculpture in connection with Piero s paintings. One might also see in his hermetic, ritualized and timeless paintings the art of Chinese landscape painting, with its evocations of emptiness, which hints at the radical void of Eastern mysticism (in Zen Buddhism and Taoism). Piero s hypnotic art coolly melds science with art, space with spirit, the personal with the cosmic, and history, myth and religion with time. Like the art of ancient Greece, Piero s paintings rejoice in eternal brilliance, an architectonic precision, a Classical feeling for proportion and harmony. In Piero della Francesca s epoch, perspective, proportion and geometry attained a fetishistic quality. Seeing was theory-laden as Michael Baxandall put it. Piero s sense of mathematics and perspective took in commercial arithemetic on the one hand, and the transcendent purity of the Pythagorean solids on the other. For Piero dela Francesca, geometry, proportion, perspective and mathematics had a magical quality. His art exalts, on one level, a jouissance of mathematics and measurement, in which the science of Renaissance perspective is joyously explored. Piero seemed to learn towards the cool, impersonal, impassive scientific inquiry of Aristotlean philosophy, rather than the more sensuous, more obviously mystical aspects of Platonic philosophy. Bibliography, notes, illustrations.