Virtually Experience Piero della Francesca

by Ann Lally

Ann Lally, a principal at AltimaPalmBeach, studied Renaissance Art at Georgetown University’s Villa le Balze in Florence and traveled the Della Francesca Trail for a course called “Art in its Place.”

Piero della Francesca

Resurrection of Christ, which critic Aldous Huxley considered the most important painting in the world. Numerous art historians believe the sleeping soldier beneath the scepter of Christ is della Francesa’s self-portrait.


The Light of Fresco Art of the Renaissance

Imagine a world without COVID-19. Especially in Italy, cradle of the Renaissance. This world will return, and now is the time to consider a special itinerary to explore a most extraordinary artist. Born around 1415 near Tuscany and Umbria, Piero della Francesca studied in Florence under Domenico Veneziano and became one of the greatest fresco painters of the Renaissance. He left Florence in 1440 and returned to his birthplace of Sansepolcro, between Tuscany and Umbria.

While a councilman, his township commissioned two of his most important works for the community’s church. His Resurrection of Christ is homage to the town’s importance. Two pilgrims, Egidio and Arcano, brought sacred relics from the Holy Sepulchre (Santo Sepolcro)of Jerusalem, hence the symbolic name and value for the city.  The fresco resides in restored splendor at the town’s Civic Museum. Art historian Sir Kenneth Clark and critic Aldous Huxley considered this fresco the most important painting since the birth of Christ. Rumor is, the Metropolitan Museum of Art attempted to purchase the fresco from the township after WWII, but the township refused. Praised for its perfect composition and color and powerful spirituality, townspeople whisper that the sleeping solder below the scepter is actually della Francesca’s self-portrait.

Piero della Francesca

The Madonna of Mercy (around 1445), della Francesca’s commission for his home town of Sansepolcro, between Umbria and Tuscany.

Another renowned fresco is The Madonna of Mercy, also in the Civic Museum, commissioned for the alter of the town church. Part of a polyptych, Mary’s cloak is is opened to shelter and protect followers from the plague. Another perfectly geometric composition, the Madonna has a compassionate gaze toward the faithful, with the promise of comfort and consolation. The refined dress in vivid red spreads to receive worshipers. In the nearby town of Monterchi resides La Madonna del Parto. Homage to della Francesca’s mother, it is one of the few paintings that depicts Mary pregnant.

Sansepolcro is an easy drive from Florence and well worth the visit. But if you can’t get there next year, two wonderful lectures relating to della Francesca are available, free of charge on The Frick Collection web site. The Frick, by the way, has two of his paintings.  Simply click here to peruse all the outstanding art lectures that the Frick is offering, two of which focus on della Francesca.