Learn about Piero Della Francesca in History-view His Art and Famous Paintings

Pierro Della Francesca,

"St. Sebastian and St. John the Baptist”,

left panel Polyptych of the Misericordia Piero Della Francesca, 1440-1460

Piero Della Francesca, 1416-1492, one of Italy’s famous artists in art history was influenced by the perspective art theories of Alberti, Ghiberti, Fra Angelico and Veneziano. Piero learned the theories regarding light form and color from these men. His early figures were heavy and Masaccioesque in the delineation of the drapery, the figures void of emotion.

Piero della Francesca actually made models draped with cloth to study the characteristics light has on fabric. He learned through his studies that light helped in the volumetric formation of his figures, and that light was important creating depth and illusion.

In Piero's early famous paintings the figures were primarily in the foreground. They did not enter into deep recession until he painted "Triumph of Federigo da Montefeltro", in 1465. In this artwork Piero painted a deep, wide vista landscape never attempted before in Italian painting. The landscape is ideal in that the landscape view didn’t actually exist.

Although Piero della Francesca's figures didn't interact to any great extent in his art, they did in one of his paintings "Battle of Heraclius and Chosroes", painted in 1453/54. Horses are rearing, a soldier is trampled, javelins and swords are drawn and an emperor is beheaded.

Piero was deeply interested in three-dimensional space. He used a one point scientific perspective that mathematically aided placing figures into space with perfect size relationship to architecture and Nature. Title: Piero's mathematical artistic perspective was so precise that we can actually measure the ostrich egg hanging above the Madonna in his painting "Madonna and Child with Saints", painted around 1472.

Piero della Francesca painted his representation of "Baptism of Christ", 1450, in terms of daily life. Jesus Christ stands in the Jordan River baptized by Saint John. Directly above Christ's head is God the Holy Spirit symbolized by a dove, to the left of Christ is three angels. Two angels look on attentively while the third looks tired disinterested and bored, leaning on the nearest figure.
Piero did not paint Christ’s portrait idealistically. He chose instead to follow a Biblical quote "He hath no beauty that we should desire him" and therefore rendered Christ with an unprecedented ugliness in the Italian tradition.

Receding into the background of the painting, a figure removes his outer clothing to be baptized. Adding to his articulation Piero paints the reflected landscape and two figure images on the water and the town Sansepolcro in the deep background.

Piero della Francesca painted one of his most famous paintings in art history "The flagellation of Christ" in the 1450's, a picture inside Herod’s palace. It has been constructed with such accuracy that scholars have been able to reconstruct the architectural plan from the inlaid marble floor. Title: Because of the strict artistic scientific perspective, the figures on the right appear monumental in comparison to the figures involved in the flagellation of Christ deeper in the background. The monumental scientific size Piero gave the right hand figures seem to take on greater importance than Jesus Christ being flagellated. This caused concern with many people viewing the artwork. Other famous artists of the Gothic art period in art history are Gentile da Fabriano and Fra Angelico.

To view the entire gallery of Piero Della Francesca paintings, click here.

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