The other week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Dana Prescott’s presentation of her new book, Feathers from the Angel’s wing, at Civitella Ranieri castle in Umbertide. By lovingly collecting poems over the last 20 years, Dana has taken a novel approach to viewing artworks that explore a person’s emotional reaction to the paintings of Piero della Francesca.
Piero was born over the border in Sansepolcro, Tuscany and within a short distance of his birthplace you can still find many of his works. Over the last 600 years his artwork has influenced and touched many poets and painters down the ages. Feathers from an Angel’s Wing, brings to life the thoughts of those long departed, as well as contemporary poets still alive today.
Over time, there have been many commentators on Piero della Francesca’s paintings but where this book differs is by collating the feelings poets had when viewing his images. Artists naturally deal in emotions, and what better form of compliment than having a poet describe their reaction to a piece of work.
The book also features poems in Italian and acknowledges the valuable and often overlooked contributions of the translators, who were on hand to recite poems in their native language, giving the presentation a wonderful, international feel.
My personal favourite is 1400 by the American poet, Albert Goldbarth. This one sentence monologue goes through the various ingredients Piero would have used in mixing his paints back in the 15th century.
“Saps, and the anal grease of an otter, and pig’s blood, and the crushed-up bulbous bodies of those insects that they’d find so thickly gathered on barnyard excrement it makes a pulsing rind”
It is a list of the gory, the common place and the down right strange but as the poem concludes, it perfectly illustrates the care and commitment that went into producing the medium for depicting the saints and angels of the Early Renaissance.
Where to find della Francesca?
Piero della Francesca’s artwork can be found around Tuscany, Umbria and Le Marche, his painting, Madonna del Parto, can be seen in Monterchi. A couple of miles away, The Resurrection and Polyptych of the Misercordia are on display in Sansepolcro and on the coast, in Rimini, there is the fresco, Malatesta praying in front of St Sigismund.
The Flagellation of Christ and the Madonna di Senigallia, can be found in Urbino and the beautifully detailed History of the True Cross and Magdelana are in Arezzo. While in Perugia you’ll find the Polyptych of Perugia and a little further north in Florence you can see the famous portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino.
Feathers from an Angel’s Wing is available from Amazon