Piero della Francesca

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Piero della Francesca

(pyĕ`rō dĕl`lä fränchās`kä), c.1420–1492, major Italian Renaissance painter, b. Borgo San Sepolcro (modern Sansepolcro). All his masterpieces were created in towns of central Italy, but early contact with the art of Florence proved decisive in Piero's development. In the Baptism of Christ (c.1445; National Gall., London) he had already absorbed the Florentine theories of perspective and added his own acute perception of nature. He delighted in the play of mathematical ratios and painted The Flagellation of Christ (c.1450; Urbino) in a measured, symmetrical manner. His most famous cycle, The Story of the True Cross (1452–66; Church of San Francesco, Arezzo), depicts scenes from the Golden Legend. Particularly notable are the imposing portrayal of the Queen of Sheba, the stately array of battle scenes, and the stark night scene of the Dream of Constantine. He painted several court portraits, including one of Sigismondo Malatesta before his Patron Saint, a simple geometric conception. This contrasts with the scrupulous detail he used in painting the profile portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino (Uffizi). Piero also executed the massive Resurrection (Sansepolcro) and several altarpieces, parts of which have been lost or scattered. One panel of a saint is in the Frick Collection, New York. He always painted slowly and deliberately, and after 1475 his activity slackened. The Nativity (National Gall., London) and Virgin and Child with Saints (Brera, Milan) are among the few pictures he produced in his later years. Devoting himself to works of a more theoretical nature, he wrote Libellus de V Corporibus regularibus [notebook on the five regular bodies] (MS in Vatican Library) and De Prospectiva pingendi [on perspectives in painting] (MS in Ambrosian Library, Milan).


See J. R. Banker, Piero della Francesca: Artist and Man (2014); L. Witham, Piero's Light: In Search of Piero della Francesca (2014); studies by K. Clark (2d ed. 1970), C. de Tolnay (1966), A. Angelini (1985), and J. and M. Gilland (1988).

Francesca, Piero della:

see Piero della FrancescaPiero della Francesca
, c.1420–1492, major Italian Renaissance painter, b. Borgo San Sepolcro (modern Sansepolcro). All his masterpieces were created in towns of central Italy, but early contact with the art of Florence proved decisive in Piero's development.
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Piero della Francesca


Born circa 1420 in Sansepolcro, Tuscany; buried there Oct. 12, 1492. Italian painter.

In 1439, Piero della Francesca worked as an assistant to Domenico Veneziano. He was influenced by Masaccio and F. Brunnelleschi, as well as by the Flemish school. Although Piero worked mainly in Sansepolcro and Urbino, he also executed works in Ferrara (c. 1448–50), Rimini (1451 and 1482), Rome (1459), and Arezzo (up until 1466).

Piero’s paintings are distinguished by majestic figures, solid forms, translucent colors, and a consistent use of linear perspective. These features are encountered in Piero’s early works of the 1450’s (Baptism, 1450–55, National Gallery, London; Madonna della Misericordia, c. 1450–62, Museum, Sansepolcro; Flagellation, c. 1455–60).

Between 1452 and 1466, Piero did a cycle of frescoes in the church of San Francisco at Arezzo on the theme of the True Cross. Executed in the softest tones of pale pink, violet, red, gray, and blue, the frescoes stress the rounded figures and develop strict rhythmical compositions parallel to the plane of the wall and against the background of bright and harmonious landscapes. Piero successfully portrayed the solemnity of the events transpiring. The calm inner nobility characteristic of these works is particularly pervasive in the fresco Resurrection (c. 1463, Museum, Sansepolcro).

Circa J465, Piero painted portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza, the count and countess of Urbino (Uffizzi Gallery, Florence). The characterization is remarkably accurate in these works, and the panoramic landscapes of the background, which are light and airy, are of great importance. In Piero’s late compositions (Madonna With Saints and Federico da Montefeltro, c. 1472–75, Brera Gallery, Milan; Nativity, c. 1475, National Gallery, London) chiaroscuro was softened, with diffused silver light gaining increasing importance.

In the last years of his life, Piero wrote two treatises: On Perspective in Painting (most recent edition, Florence, 1974) and On the Five Regular Bodies (most recent edition in Atti della Reale Accademia dei Lincei: Memorie della classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, series V, Rome, 1915, vol. 14). The first, which reflects the influence of L. B. Alberti, gives a mathematical explanation of perspective techniques; the second contains instruction on the solution of certain problems of stereometry.

Piero laid the foundations for High Renaissance painting in central and northern Italy. L. Signorelli was his pupil, and Melozzo da Forli and F. del Cossa were his followers. Piero also influenced the Venetian and Florentine schools.


Lazarev, V. N. P’ero della Francheska. Moscow [1966].
Longhi, R. Piero della Francesca, 3rd ed. Florence [1963].
Hendy, P. Piero della Francesca and the Early Renaissance. London, 1968.
Clark, K. Piero della Francesca, 2nd ed. London, 1969.

Piero della Francesca

?1420--92, Italian painter, noted particularly for his frescoes of the Legend of the True Cross in San Francesco, Arezzo