Of all the visual engines pulling the long freight train of Western art, alone, inscrutable, regal is Piero della Francesca. With Giotto, Velázquez, Goya, Cézanne, and several others, Piero—as he’s always referred to, like a familiar—is perhaps the Western painter most universally loved by artists. The towering majesty, poignant silences, mystic geometries, and stately, breathtaking color in his scenes of saints in conversation, contemplation, or simply standing are spellbinding sources of awe, magnificence, and an almost immortal optical poetry. Piero gives us the astounding power and plaintiveness of early Italian Renaissance art, shakes us to our moral core, bringing the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and soulful closer together than any artist who ever lived. I want to say Piero is perfect. He worked and lived in what’s now called Tuscany between 1411 (probably) and 1492, and was renowned in his own lifetime, sought after by princes and potentates. The best way to see his work is to travel what’s called the “Piero della Francesca Trail,” visiting his hometown of Borgo San Sepolcro, Urbino, Monterchi, Rimini, and the tremendous fresco cycle in Arezzo known as The Legend of the True Cross.
more from Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine here.