One of the most interesting aspects of the works of Piero della Francesca, whether they are frescoes or panel paintings, is the landscape to which the artist devotes ample space in his works.
Who has not paused for a moment to observe and submit to the attraction of those natural or architectural backgrounds which are to be found in the frescoes of the Legend of the True Crossin Arezzo or the Resurrection in Sansepolcro?
The attraction that this aspect has always exerted, inspiring poets to pen noble verses and writers to impassioned prose, is well-known.
Even today, the descriptions of the great travelers could guide the visitor through the works of Piero della Francesca, allowing him to discover that practically nothing has changed.
The beautiful views, the daring foreshortenings, the barren and rocky mountains of the Valtiberina are those described in 1581 by Michel de Montaigne on a journey from Sansepolcro to Arezzo, via the La Scheggia pass, landscapes immortalized in the background to the Resurrection.
The Tiber, the river that laps the town of Sansepolcro and appears as a naturalistic element dividing the two armies in the Battle between Constantine and Maxentius in the Arezzo frescoes, is described with particular affection and devotion by the English writer G. M. Trevelyan: “This reach of the great river, where it first leaves its mountains cradle, has a peculiar effect on the imagination…the line of a poplar wood shading the course of the Tiber…a clear stream of the blue and silver eddies”.
The ilex-cloaked hills that form the background to the scene showing the Queen of Sheba appears to have been a landscape very dear to Piero, a memory linked to the artist’s childhood between the Val Cerfone and the Val Padonchia, between which was the birthplace of his mother, Monterchi, famous for the celebrated fresco of the Madonna del Parto.
The ploughed fields, the hills seen from the heights of Anghiari appearing like hillocks of color, shifting with the change of the seasons, are arranged with graceful harmony and give the observer a sense of calm and grace. These are the same sensations that we perceive before the landscape of the Adoration of the Wood in the Arezzo cycle, or in the background of the Resurrection in Sansepolcro.
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