Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This material reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Artists - ArtWorks

Name of the Artist / Artwork:

Piero Della Francesca

Country: Italy
Century: 1400 - The 15th Century
Art Period:

Reinassance Art and Architecture in Italy

Synthetic Chronology:

1420 Born in Sansepolcro, Italy
1439 Apprentinced with Domenico Veneziano
1445 In Ferrara, where he worked for the Marquis Leonello d'Este 1451 He Moves to Rimini
1459 Possibly in Rome
1460s Working in Urbino for Duke Federico da Montefeltro
1474 He published De Prospectiva pingendi
1492 Dies in Sansepolcro on 12 October

The Context:

This period marks a distance from the medieval period with certain differences. In traditional sense Renaissance is understood to be a historical age expending through 14th, 15th and 16thcentruries. represented a reconnection of the west with classical antiquity, the absorption of knowledge (particularly mathematics), a focus on the importance of living with comforts in the present (Renaissance humanism), and an explosion of the dissemination of knowledge brought on by the invention of printing. In addition, this period witnessed the creation of new techniques in art, poetry, and architecture led in turn to a radical change in the style and substance of the arts and letters.


1420 Piero goes to abacus school, then is apprenticed to heraldic painter Antonio
d’ Anghiari.
1438 Piero working with Domenico Veneziano in Perugia.
1439 Piero in Florence with Domenico Veneziano, where he meets Leon Battista Alberti, whose On Painting he has probably read.
1450 Piero in Ferrara meets Rogier van der Weyden.
1456 Battles with the Turks on the Danube possibly provide iconographical scheme for Arezzo cycle, which he completed in 1466 c.a.
1460- 1463 He Paints Madonna del Parto and the Flagellation
1470 Piero writes On Perspective in Painting.
1472 Piero paints Brera altarpiece for Federico da Montefeltro.
1474 Piero paints portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza. Directs fortification work in Borgo.
1478 Piero paints Senigallia Madonna.
1483 Piero paints Nativity.

National Comparative:

He was strongly influenced by Masaccio and Domenico Veneziano. His solid, rounded figures are derived from Masaccio, while from Domenico he absorbed a predilection for delicate colours and scenes bathed in cool, clear daylight. To these influences he added an innate sense of order and clarity. He wrote treatises on solid geometry and on perspective, and his works reflect these interests. He conceived of the human figure as a volume in space, and the outlines of his subjects have the grace, abstraction, and precision of geometric drawings.

Artistic Analysis:

The Flagellation is particularly admired for the mathematical unity of the composition, and Piero's ability to depict the distance between the actual flagellation scene and the three characters in the foreground realistically through perspective. The portrait of the bearded man on the left is considered unusually intense for Piero's time. The biblical event takes place in an open gallery in the near distance, while three figures in the foreground on the right-hand side apparently pay no attention to the event unfolding behind them. The panel is much admired for its use of linear perspective and the air of stillness that pervades the work. According to the traditional interpretation, the three men would be Oddantonio da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, Piero's patron, and his two advisors Serafini and Ricciarelli (who allegedly murdered the Duke in 1444) The two advisors are identified also as Manfredo del Pio and Tommaso di Guido dell'Agnello, who were also allegedly responsible for Oddantonio's death due to their unpopular government, which led to the conspiracy. Oddantonio's death would be compared, in its innocence, to that of Christ.
Madonna Del Parto portrays a pregnant Madonna, common theme in early 14th century Tuscany. Madonna was portrayed standing, alone, with a closed book on her belly, an allusion to the enbodied Word.She has neither books nor royal attributes as in the medieval predecessors of the picture. She is portrayed with a hand against her side to support the prominent belly. At her side are two angels, which are keeping open a pavilion decorated with pomegranate, a symbol of Christ's passion.

Transnational Comparative Analysis:

Piero's later works show the probable influence of Flemish art, which he assimilated without betraying his own monumental style. In works such as the Senigallia Madonna (1470?, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino), he adapted to his own purposes an attention to detail and a meticulous treatment of still life that were characteristic of Flemish art.

Development of the artist's work through the years:

The undisputed high point of his career was the series of large frescoes Legend of the True Cross, (1452-1465) done for the Church of San Francesco in Arezzo, in which he presents scenes of astonishing beauty, with silent, stately figures fixed in clear, crystalline space. These frescoes are characterized by broad contrasts, both in subject matter and in treatment, that create a powerful effect of grandeur. Thus, for example, the nudes in Death of Adam are contrasted to the sumptuously attired figures in Solomon and Sheba, the bright daylight of Victory of Constantine with the gloom of Dream of Constantine (one of the first night scenes in Western art). In addition, each fresco is organized in two sections which he exploits to create a marked sense of rhythm.


Piero della Francesca was one of the most original men of the renaissance. Piero had two passions - art and geometry - the very things that this course is dealing with. He carried these on at the same time and, we will try to show here, how he integrated the two.


M.Stokstad-Art History, Pearson Prentice Hall 2005

Ernst Gombrich- History of Art, Phaidon

Related Material:

Image available

File name: 26_02 Flagellazione.jpg

Description of the material:


File name: 26_04 Montefeltro e Sforza.jpg

Description of the material:

Montefeltro e Sforza

Comments about this Artist/ArtWork

Date: 2009.04.24

Posted by nicolò centineo

Message: In answer to the question lifted by the prof. Clerici on the diffusion of the painting to oil I attach the following paragraph

During Four hundred it is not to underestimate the amazing mimetic quality that reaches the Flemish art, that ability to fathom the world fenomenico in his endless folds, in his intensity and mutability, all of this is favorite from the use of an ancient technique that knows only in Four hundred an ampler diffusion: the painting to oil. Thanks to the use of olii as binders, in fact, the colors become more fluids and they are applied on the painting to following, thin and transparent layers: in this way the artists get endless gradations of color and brightness and they can define the optic truth of the single objects creating some extremely suggestive images.

Michelangelo - Copyright 2008 - This project has been funded with support from the European Commission

Valid XHTML 1.1Valid CSS!Materiale fotografico: © Pavel Losevsky |