- Piero della Francesca
- (ca. 1420-1492)Italian painter, a na-tive of Borgo San Sepolcro in Umbria and active there and in Arezzo and Urbino. His works, which show him to be one of the greatest painters of the mid-15th century, are distinguished by a sense of solemnity and austerity, with solid figures and glowing colors. He was probably trained by a local painter and then worked in Florence un-der Domenico Veneziano. His paintings show full mastery of the so-phisticated perspective and harmonious composition typical of the generation that succeeded Masaccio. Piero's remarkable skill in using color, on the other hand, is not typical of Florentine tradition but may be due to his early work with the Venetian-born Veneziano. He also re-ceived more academic education than most painters of his time, for surviving documents as well as manuscripts of his treatise on per-spective (De prospectiva pingendi) show that he wrote humanistic script and probably knew some Latin. The treatise on perspective in-fluenced nearly all 16th-century books on the subject. He also wrote vernacular treatises on commercial mathematics (abaco) and on alge-bra and geometry, and these seem to have been used (in some cases, verbatim) as sources by the mathematical author Luca Pacioli, who knew him well and seems to have acquired his manuscripts.Piero came from a prosperous merchant family and seems to have had an income from the family business, probably the reason why he never organized the usual artist's workshop and also a reason why he did not produce a great number of paintings. His major works include a fresco cycle, The Legend of the True Cross (1455-1466) at Arezzo; an altarpiece, Madonna with the Duke of Urbino as Donor, painted for Duke Federigo of Urbino; The Baptism of Christ; The Nativity of Christ, often regarded as his last work; and several portraits includ-ing the duke and duchess of Urbino (both ca. 1470). His most famous single painting, however, was done for the city hall in his home town at San Sepolcro, The Resurrection of Christ (ca. 1460), notable for its severely geometrical design, the classical modeling and solidity of its figures, and the effective contrasts of light and shade and also of col-ors. One of the sleeping soldiers in the painting is thought to be a self-portrait of the artist. He also painted a series of frescoes at Rome for Pope Nicholas V, but these were replaced in the following century by works of Raphael. He was probably the teacher of the Tuscan painter Luca Signorelli.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.