Janna Adelstein ’15
One of the most popular exhibitions currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters. Piero della Francesca was an Italian painter, active during the Early Renaissance period in what is now Tuscany. Born in 1415, della Francesca is among those Renaissance artists and mathematicians who essentially anticipated the future through their work. This feature is what makes some of his paintings so unique. della Francesca was one of first to use oil paint, a medium which is now a mainstay of the artistic community. By moving towards a more realistic style of painting in his work, della Francesca also contributed to major developments in the painting world. Hyper-realism, a painting style that is incredibly popular today, has its roots in the realism that della Francesca was experimenting with six hundred years ago. The Met’s decision to display some of della Francesca’s most influential work reminds us that the Renaissance brought with it many artists whose work still influences society in the modern day and age.
Personal Encounters features four of della Francesca’s most prominent works, most of which feature the Madonna holding a child. This Madonna is not the pop icon many look up to today; she is actually an appellation of Mother Mary, also know as the mother of Jesus Christ. della Francesca’s fascination with the Madonna reflects a Renaissance preoccupation with Christianity. This is a topic that Y1’s are currently exploring in their Seminar classes through Dante’s Inferno and Machiavelli’s The Prince. The Madonna is depicted in both Madonna and Child with Two Angels (Senigallia Madonna) and Madonna and Child. Both paintings are done at least partially in oil paint. These two paintings in particular are beautifully impressive in person. The raw simplicity of depicting a real life woman in combination with the depiction of a slightly matured baby Jesus is incredibly beautiful. Not only was art flourishing in Tuscany during della Francesca’s time, but the spread of Christianity was also erupting, thanks to Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas.
The two other pieces featured in Personal Encounters are Saint Jerome and a Supplicant and Saint Jerome in the Wilderness. These two pieces again bring up the theme of religion, which was booming in della Francesca’s era. The titles of these pieces are self-explanatory, but the effect they have on the viewer is the same as the two pieces previously discussed. The beauty that comes from a depiction of a biblical figure in a somewhat realistic context is striking, and allows one to reflect on the importance of Christianity both now and throughout the Renaissance period. della Francesca’s depiction of Christianity through his paintings demonstrates his ability to influence the future of painting (through his use of oil paints), and reflects the importance of Christianity during his lifetime. Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters is definitely worth checking out before it closes on March 30th.