Piero Della Francesca occupies a central position in the Italian and European art of the fifteenth century. A member of the second generation of humanist painters, he brilliantly fuses art and geometry, spirituality and the rigorous application and rules of perspective. Piero Della Francesca began his career as a pupil of Veneziano in Florence, but spent his whole career working in the provinces, thus making an important contribution to the spread of humanist art in Italy. Although strongly influenced by Donatello, Masaccio, and Uccello, he was fascinated with mathematics and problems of perspective. He spent as much time as possible in his hometown Sansepolcro, located on the road that runs from eastern Tuscany to Umbria and Urbino.
During the 1440s he alternated periods of work in his hometown with stays in other cities, including Rome. In Ferrara, he came into contact with Leon Battista Alberti, and Rogier Van der Weyden. In 1452 he began work on the most important undertaking of his career, the Story of the True Cross in Arezzo. In the variety of narrative situations, the monumentality of the figures, the careful calculation of the spaces, and the intensity of the expressions, it is one of the fundamental works of the European Renaissance. In Flagellation Of Christ, the perfect synthesis of the characteristics of Italian art in the mid-fifteenth century, the spaces are calculated on the basis of a strict geometric grid, while the natural light accentuates the perspective and the relationship between interior and exterior.
During the 1460s Piero was active mainly in the courts of Frederico da Montefeltro in Urbino. His time there was marked by frequent contact with foreign artists, by the treatises he wrote on geometry, perspective and algebra, and by several memorable masterpieces. Painted for Duke Frederico da Montefeltro, the Brera Madonna altarpiece was made for the Church of San Bernardino in Urbino. Here the two aspects of this great painter are evident. On the one hand the theorist of geometry, and the author of important treatises on perspective, and on the other the creative artist devoted to the search for the ideal image. The scene is set inside a Renaissance building and its proportions are carefully scaled to the figures. The light models the silent group with remarkable clarity, giving them the lofty tone of a celestial court, arranged according to a precise hierarchy.
From the 1470s onward, losing his sight, he abandoned painting and concentrated on these subjects, writing dealing with geometry and perspective and investigating the varying effects of light. In the 1470s his sight began to fail and he was forced to give up painting. Back in Sansepolcro, he devoted himself to completing his treatises. By a curious coincidence, the artist who symbolizes the intellectual world of the fifteenth century died on the same day as the discovery of the New World, October 12, 1492. Piero Della Francesca was a rather slow, perhaps dilatory, artist who took a long time to complete commissions, one of his greatest masterpieces being the unfinished Nativity, now in the National Gallery, London.
His work was neglected and underrated for many years, but he was rediscovered in the nineteenth century and his stature as one of the major artists of the Renaissance has been re-established. Piero Della Francesca's geometrical perfection and the almost magic atmosphere of the light in his painting inspired modern painters like Giorgio de Chirico, Massimo Campigli, Felice Casorati and Balthus.
Art Movement History: Renaissance Art.
Artists Influencing Della Francesca: Donatello, Masaccio, Uccello, Antonio di Giovanni d'Anghiari.
Painters Piero Della Francesca Influenced: Giorgio de Chirico, Massimo Campigli, Felice Casorati, Balthus.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.