Piero della Francesca


Polyptych of the Misericordia

The Flagellation of Christ

St. Jerome in Penitence

Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta Praying in Front of St. Sigismund

Portrait of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta

St. Jerome and a Donor

The Baptism of Christ

The History of the True Cross

       Adoration of the Holy Wood and the Meeting of Solomon        and the Queen of Sheba   
Constantine's Dream

Mary Magdalene

Madonna del parto

St. Julian


Polyptych of Saint Augustine


Polyptych of Perugia

Madonna and Child with Saints (Montefeltro Altarpiece)

Paired portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza

Madonna di Senigallia

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists | Piero della Francesca


Art in Tuscany
Diptych Portrait of Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (1472) Diptych Portrait of Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (1472)
Portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and His Wife Battista Sforza (1465-66), Panel, 47 x 33 cm (each), Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze

Art in Tuscany  

Diptych Portrait of Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (1472)


Piero della Francesca, an Italian artist, one of the greatest artists of the Early Renaissance. His painting art is characterized by its serene humanism and its use of geometric forms, particularly in relation to perspective. He wrote books on solid geometry and on perspective, and his works reflect these interests. Francesca's solid, rounded figures are derived from Masaccio, while from Domenico he absorbed a predilection for delicate colors and scenes bathed in cool, clear daylight. To these influences he added an innate sense of order and clarity. 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. Almost all of Piero's works are religious in nature - primarily altarpieces and church frescoes in which he presents scenes of astonishing beauty, with silent, stately figures fixed in clear, crystalline space. There are always large areas of white or near-white in his works, the skies are big, light and sunny. The monumental quality of his figures, the perspectival construction of the pictorial space and the spiritual calm of his compositions led, throughout Italy, to the final surmounting of the Gothic style and prepared the way for the artistic achievements of High Renaissance in Italy.

The Montefeltro family in Urbino was Piero's most generous patron towards 1465. The diptich with the portraits of Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro can be dated at the beginning of this period. In these two relatively small panels Piero attempts a very difficult compositional construction, that had never been attempted before. Behind the profile portrait of the two rulers, which is iconographically related to the heraldic tradition of medallion portraits, the artist adds an extraordinary landscape that extends so far that its boundaries are lost in the misty distance. Yet the relationship between the landscape and the portraits in the foreground is very close, also in meaning: for the portraits, with the imposing hieratic profiles, dominate the painting just as the power of the rulers portrayed dominates over the expanse of their territories. The daringness of the composition lies in this sudden switch between such distant perspective planes.

Piero's ability in rendering volumes is accompanied by his attention to detail. Through his use of light, he gives us a miniaturistic description of Sforza's jewels, of the wrinkles, moles and blemishes on Federico's olive-coloured skin. As in all portraits of the Duke, including this one by Piero della Francesca, we only see his left profile; a swordblow earlier in his life had cost him his right eye and the bridge of his nose.
Both lack of the right eye and the unusual shape of the nose were the results of an accident at a tournament. He actually had surgeons entirely remove the injured bridge of his nose to improve a field of vision of his survived eye, so he was less vulnerable to assassination attempts.


Allegorical Triumph of Federico da Montefeltro and Allegorical Triumph of Battista Sforza (1472)

Piero della Francesca, Allegorical Triumph of Federico da Montefeltro and Allegorical Triumph of Battista Sforza (1472)

The panels depicting the Duke and Duchess of Urbino are both painted on the reverse in a style that can be regarded as miniature. The left picture shows the reverse side of the Portrait of Battista Sforza. It represents a Triumph matching that on the reverse of the portrait of her husband, and it is shown in the same scale. Battista Sforza was the daughter of Alessandro Sforza, the ruler of Pesaro, and the wife of Federigo da Montefeltro, the ruler of Urbino.

This right picture shows the reverse side of the Portrait of Federico da Montefeltro. It is the image of a triumphal carriage pulled by white horses. The Duke is shown in his role as a professional soldier, baton in hand, and dressed in shining armor. A humanistic Latin inscription praising Federico is shown below.


[1] Question of appearance | en.posztukiwania.pl




Federico da Montefeltro was born in 1422 to a small-time noble family that ruled over an insignificant square of the chess-board that was then central Italy. Yet within sixty years he had become "the light of Italy" and the paradigm of Renaissance man, as skilled in letters as in arms.
His portrait, together with his young son, Guidobaldo, by the Spanish painter Pedro Berruguete in Urbino's Ducal Palace neatly portrays this duality of scholar and warrior - studiously reading a weighty manuscript, he keeps his helmet by his side.

He made his money as one of the most successful condottiere, or hired generals, of his time. Always fighting on short-term contracts and strictly for cash on the nail, he displayed the timeless Italian ability of never taking sides - he managed once to fight for Florence against the Pope only to later take up the Papal banner against the Florentines.
His fortune made, he turned to the arts as enthusiastically as he had to war and settled down to create his shining court. Almost all the great names of the Quattrocento passed through his palace, and his library was reckoned amongst the largest in Europe.
On his death in 1482, his sickly son, Guidobaldo, managed to keep alive the splendour of the court with the help of his emancipated wife Elisabetta Gonzaga. Baldesar Castiglione wrote his famous Book of the Courtier, the classic account of the Renaissance ideal, as a member of Guidobaldo and Elisabetta's retinue.
On his death in 1508, the Dukedom passed to the Della Rovere family and Urbino's decline began; the light was finally extinguished in 1631 when the last Duke handed the Duchy to the Papal States - its palace stripped of its treasures, Urbino sank into unbroken torpor.


Art in Tuscany | Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists | Piero della Francesca

Art in Tuscany | Piero della Francesca in central Italy, an itinerary full of artistic and historical beauty

Itinerary in Central Italy | In the footsteps of Piero della Francesca

The Balconies of Piero della Francesca | The Hidden Landscapes of Piero Della Francesca in Le Marche


Holiday accomodation in Tuscany | Podere Santa Pia | Artist and writer's residency


Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, garden view, April
View from Podere Santa Pia
on the Maremma hills

Villa Celsa near Florence
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
in Florence
Choistro dello Scalzo, Florence
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
in Florence
Florence, Duomo