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A Matter of Perspective: Piero della Francesca at the Met

December 30, 2013

Piero della Francesca (Tuscany 1412? – 1492 Tuscany) The Senigallia Madonna and Child with Two Angels Tempera and oil on wood (walnut) 24 11/16 x 20 ¾ in. (62.7 x 52.8 cm) Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino (inv. 1990 D 58)
Piero della Francesca (Tuscany 1412? – 1492 Tuscany)
The Senigallia Madonna and Child with Two Angels
Tempera and oil on wood (walnut)
24 11/16 x 20 ¾ in. (62.7 x 52.8 cm)
Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino (inv. 1990 D 58)

Celebrity worship is nothing new.  In the 1400s in Italy, before the advent of glossy paparazzi mags, the rock stars of the day—Saints, were worshipped by the wealthy through small personalized paintings called Devotionals.  Beginning January 14, 2014, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), New York, will take a look at one of the most interesting Devotional painters from the Early Renaissance, Piero della Francesca  [c.1415–1492].

Piero della Francesca (Tuscany 1412? – 1492 Tuscany) Saint Jerome and a Devotee Tempera (and oil?) on wood 19 ½ x 16 ½ in. (49.4 x 42 cm); painted surface: 19 ½ x 15 ½ in. (49.4 x 39.5 cm) Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice
Piero della Francesca (Tuscany 1412? – 1492 Tuscany)
Saint Jerome and a Devotee
Tempera (and oil?) on wood
19 ½ x 16 ½ in. (49.4 x 42 cm); painted surface: 19 ½ x 15 ½ in. (49.4 x 39.5 cm)
Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

Born in Tuscany, Piero della Francesca, was a painter, mathematician and geometer who used a cool color palette, simplified forms, and mathematical perspective to create exceptionally contemplative Devotionals.  The Met in collaboration with Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, and the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino, will bring together for the first time, four Devotional paintings by the artist: Saint Jerome and a Donor from the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice; Madonna and Child with Two Angels (the Senigallia Madonna) from the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino; Saint Jerome in a Landscape from the Gemaldegalerie, Berlin; and Madonna and Child from a private collection in New York in their new exhibit Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters [January 14—March 30, 2014].

Piero della Francesca (Tuscany 1412? – 1492 Tuscany) Saint Jerome in the Wilderness Oil on wood (chestnut) 20 1/8 x 15 in. (51 x 38 cm) Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
Piero della Francesca (Tuscany 1412? – 1492 Tuscany)
Saint Jerome in the Wilderness
Oil on wood (chestnut)
20 1/8 x 15 in. (51 x 38 cm)
Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Piero wrote three treatise including one on perspective, De Prospectiva Pingendi (c.1474), and two others on mathematics and geometry: Trattato del Abaco, and De Quinque Corporibus Regularibus.  These books built on ideas that were presented thirty-nine years earlier by Leon Battista Alberti’s Treatise on Painting of 1435.   His work is considered as an extension of Alberti’s work, though more explicit.

Piero della Francesca (Tuscany 1412? – 1492 Tuscany) Madonna and Child Tempera on wood, 20 7/8 x 16 1/8 in. (53 x 41 cm) The Alana Collection
Piero della Francesca (Tuscany 1412? – 1492 Tuscany)
Madonna and Child
Tempera on wood, 20 7/8 x 16 1/8 in. (53 x 41 cm)
The Alana Collection

His own work shows care in using mathematics to proportion and layout his paintings employing the Golden Rule as well as linear perspective. Piero painted in tempera, a mixture of egg yolk and pigment, and the newly invented medium pigment oil.

Visit: Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
January 14—March 30, 2014
Suggested Donation


About the author: Bill Indursky
Bill Indursky is an architect, trend expert, and digital entrepreneur. He is the former founder of V&M (Vintage & Modern (2006-2013)) and the current founder of Design Life Network (DLN). DLN is a MAGAZINE + DESIGN AGENCY + MARKETPLACE + TV CHANNEL promoting inspiring design of all eras online and on TV.


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