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Charles Roffey pictures of sansepolcro

Piero della Francesca: an itinerary full of beauty

From Sansepolcro to Florence

Piero della Francesca is surely one of the leading exponents of the early Renaissance and an artist who brings up the name of Tuscan art worldwide. A life devoted to painting but also to mathematics and geometry. A great experimenter. What we propose is an itinerary which, starting from his hometown, will take us to discover his land, works and history. A journey full of beauty: artistic, historical and natural. In Tuscany and (a little) beyond! 

Resurrection by Piero della Francesca
Resurrection by Piero della Francesca

It all begins (and ends, as we’ll see) here, in this typical village of the Valtiberina area, near Arezzo, where Piero della Francesca was born around 1415 and where he began his pictorial training, before moving to Florence. Some of his greatest masterpieces are preserved in the Civic Museum, housed in the Town Hall. Piero della Francesca was commissioned with the creation of the beautiful Polittico of the Misericordia (Polyptych of Mercy) in 1445, with an expected delivery date of three years, but it turned into more than fifteen years of work, on and off! But the result is indeed breathtaking: twenty-three compartments, in part designed by Piero’s assistants, and one main central compartment depicting Our Lady of Mercy that welcomes the devotees under her mantle, men on the left, women on the right. The extraordinary fresco of the Resurrection (The Risen, 1463-65), considered one of the most beautiful paintings in the world and one of the most representative of the artist’s work, adorns the Audience Hall. Besides the detached fresco depicting San Ludovico, the museum preserves also a fragment of a fresco of a saint, probably San Giuliano, found in the church of St. Agostino in 1954.

Info: Civic Museum, museocivicosansepolcro.it

Polittico della Misericordia
Polittico della Misericordia 

 It’s here, in the cradle of the Renaissance, that Piero della Francesca gained his professional experience, influenced by the masterpieces of Donatello and Masaccio, and mostly thanks to his master, Domenico Veneziano, with whom he painted some lost frescoes. And it’s here, in the Uffizi Gallery, that we can see one of his most famous pieces: the Double Portrait of the Dukes of Urbino; originally painted for the court of Urbino.

Doppio ritratto dei Duchi di Urbino
Doppio ritratto dei Duchi di Urbino 

Due to the death of the Florentine painter Bicci di Lorenzo, Piero della Francesca was commissioned by the Bacci family to complete a work in the chapel of the church of San Francesco. Piero worked there until 1465, in two stages, with a temporary stay in Rome in the middle. The result? The wonderful fresco cycle of The Legend of the True Cross, one of the masterpieces of the whole of Renaissance painting! The Cathedral houses a little bit of Piero della Francesca too: down the aisle, in fact, you find the beautiful fresco of Maria Maddalena.

Info: Curch of San Francesco museum, pierodellafrancesca.it


This lovely hillside village, on the border of the Umbria region, is the "home" of one of the best-known works by Piero, the fresco known as the Madonna del Parto, today housed in a small museum.

Info: Madonna del Parto museum, madonnadelparto.it (ITA)

Madonna del Parto
Madonna del Parto

It’s not Tuscany, but it's close and it's worth crossing the "border" to see the Polyptych of Perugia (also known as Polyptych of St. Anthony) housed in the National Gallery of Umbria, in Perugia. 

Info: perugiacittamuseo.it 


Piero della Francesca died, almost blind, the day of the discovery of America, October 12, 1492, in his hometown and is buried here, in the Badia of Sansepolcro. Find out more info on this website dedicated to Piero della Francesca. 

This itinerary can be downloaded here (pdf)

Art and Culture