The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters
Piero della Francesca
Italian Renaissance Painter
Piero della Francesca was born in the little town of Borgo San Sepolco, in 1420. While artists who labored in the midst of densely populated and closely built cities were accustomed, with sharp eye, to observe things from near by, Piero, standing on a hill of his native town, saw only light and space. He saw the sun as it brooded over the valley and bathed objects, now in the splendor of the morning, now in the quivering light of noon, now in soft twilight. Narrowed by no limit, his eye swept over numberless hills into infinite space. The two problems of space and light, therefore, became the great objects of his life.
The psychological aspect of Piero della Francesca work is no less remarkable than technical. In representing the History of the Holy Cross, he actually gives the history of the Tree of Life which Seth, the son of Adam, planted; the history of the tree trunk, the wood of which served as a bridge, then as the threshold of the Temple, which lat at the bottom of the sea, then in the depths of the earth; and which, although the Nazarene was crucified upon it, still preserves its indestructible power.
Piero della Francesca, exhibits his mathematical fascinations and exercise in perspective drawing through his min career paintings. His later works are only further paradigms of his principles. A flaring daylight lies over the Baptism of Christ. The body of Christ is not flesh colored, but the light falling through the treetops plays upon the skin wit greenish reflections. The figures do not stand in front of the landscape, but grow out of it as mighty as statues. The trees meeting above the scene are pomegranates, the symbol of fertility. As angles, the fresh, saucy maidens of the Birth if Christ, with green wreaths and red and white roses in there fair hair, have returned.
In Madonna de Sinigaflia he attempts the favorite problem of Pieter de Hooch in showing light from a window, flooding into a room, vibrates more dimly in one place and more brightly in another. The love of still-life revealed in this painting led him to paint pictures without figures, representing wide squares enlivened by festive Renaissance buildings; and thus architectural painting taking its place in Italian art. It is true that these last works a yellowish-green mist has taken the place of the clear, bright colors he had formerly loved. It indicated his disease of the eye - a strange irony of fate that the man who had seen so much light was finally blinded. --Richard Muther, The History of Modern Painting, Henry and Co., London, 1896
Key Descriptive Words and Phrases associated with the Renaissance Movement - rebirth, rediscovery of the classical world, publication of Della Pittura, a book about the laws of mathematical perspective for artists, sfumato, chiaroscuro, Savonarola, spiritually significant, illuminated manuscript, idealized biblical themes, scriptorium, illuminator, Age of Discovery, axonometric drawing, curiosity about the natural world, mythology, realistic use of colours and light, Bonfire of the Vanities, Old Testament stories, ethereal and foggy backgrounds, Gospel parables, The Blackdeath, romanticized landscapes, Christian symbolism.
Renaissance marks the ascendancy of individualism and the
uncompromising prominence of the individual. Artists such as
Piero della Francesca were raised up in social standing and their
artworks was no
longer looked upon as simple handicrafts, but as divinely inspired
creations. Distinguished art historian and author, John C. Van Dyke,
observed "The word "Renaissance" has a broader meaning than its strict
etymology would imply. It was a "new birth," but something more than
the revival of Greek learning and the study of nature entered into it.
It was the grand consummation of Italian intelligence in many
departments—the arrival at maturity of the Christian trained mind
tempered by the philosophy of Greece, and the knowledge of the actual
world. Fully aroused at last, the Italian intellect became inquisitive,
inventive, scientific, skeptical—yes, treacherous, immoral, polluted.
It questioned all things, doubted where it pleased, saturated itself
with crime, corruption, and sensuality, yet bowed at the shrine of the
beautiful and knelt at the altar of Christianity. It is an illustration
of the contradictions that may exist when the intellectual, the
religious, and the moral are brought together, with the intellectual in
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