Tag Archives: piero della francesca

Feathers from the Angel’s Wing

feathers-danaprescottThe 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’s influence

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.


Painting ingredients

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”


Madonna del Parto

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.


Duke and Duchess of Urbino

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


Monterchi Watercolor

Painting Umbrian village

Monterchi – Watercolour and ink 36 cm x 36 cm (For Sale)

Piero territory

Madonna del Parto - Piero della Francesca

Madonna del Parto – Piero della Francesca

Monterchi stands on the Umbrian Tuscan border and is famous for the rare painting by Piero della Francesca of the pregnant Madonna, “Madonna del Parto”. He was born locally, in Sansepolcro and many pieces of his work can be found in the area.

It’s for this reason I decided to paint a sky similar to his “Baptism of Christ” now held in the National Gallery in London. The tree on the left is also a reference to the 15th century painter.

The Baptism of Christ - National Gallery, London

The Baptism of Christ – National Gallery, London

Drawing the landscape

I used some sketches and photos from the Valtiberina painting that were taken looking across the fields from the road to Lippiano.

The colourful town stands out nicely, with a clear sky behind and plenty of trees in the foreground. Although I did a little pictorial pruning of the trees to give a better view of the buildings.

Walking in Piero’s Footsteps

It is always assumed that the early landscapes of the Renaissance period were invented scenes. While some paintings such as Giotto’s Arezzo and Pintoricchio’s Spello are obvious dead giveaways, the majority are not.

Piero della Francesco painting

Baptism of Christ

That is until the dedicated work of two Italian researchers. Artist, Rosetta Borchia and naturalist, Olivia Nesci. Their studies of the works of Piero della Francesca has led to the identification of a number of landscapes that form the backdrop to some classic Renaissance paintings.

The two are based in le Marche and their inquiries have centred around the province’s northern area of Montefaltro and the bordering territories of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. It is known that the master worked intensively in this part of Italy and had a number of patrons here who commissioned works.

The MVR group have created wonderfully positioned “balconies” that give the visitor a painters view of the landscape and open up a new world on these old masters. Despite there being 650  years between many of the paintings creation and the present day, there are still many clues in the landscapes to identify the surroundings.

Finding the Duke

Piero della Francesca

Duke and Duchess of Urbino

Two of the greatest finds come from the diptych of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino, Federico da Montefaltro and his wife, Battista Sforza. The profile of the one-eyed Duke with the broken nose is famous as are the hills behind this portrait. Piero painted the diptych, which can be found in the Uffizi, Florence, between 1465 and ’72.

The background corresponds perfectly with the hills and valleys of Ca’Mocetto, with the Metauro plane and Peglio. The prominent feature, the tranquil lake, has long since been drained but everything else is still in place. Right down to the town of Sant’ Angelo in Vado and the patterns on the slopes of Mount Fronsozo.  The tree lined road, is mentioned in a deed, to be found in the Urbania Library, where it is described as “flat and extremely beautiful”.

Landscape of the Duchess

His wife’s painting stands in front of the Marecchia River, very near San Leo. The rocky landscape contains the hills of Maiolo, Penna, Billi and Mount Acquilone, as well as the village of Talamello.  Terrible weather during the late 17th century and a severe storm in 1700, led to a landslide on Mount Maiolo. Even with this cataclysmic event, the profile of the mountain is still recognisable.

Piero's Resurrection

Piero’s Resurrection

Along with this painting the team have discovered the landscapes in Piero della Francesca’s Baptism of Christ, the Resurrection, the Nativity and the Devotion of Saint Gerome. They have also pinned down the location of the reverse side of the Duke and Duchess’ diptych, The Triumph, the Metauro valley as seen from the Pieve del Colle.

The MVR Project’s site contains much more detail and comparative photos to substantiate their findings. As well as details for arranging tours of the Piero Balconies. I look forward to following this groups activities with interest and will keep an eye out for new landscapes as they uncover them.