Sandra and I love the Italian Renaissance painter, Piero Della Francesca, who lived and worked in Tuscany during the Renaissance. He was born in 1415 and died in 1492 on the same day Columbus sailed to America. Saturday afternoon, after our strenuous morning hike, we drove to Arezzo to view the frescoes of the Legend of the True Cross in the Basilica de San Francesco. I’d seen them before with Melissa, but they are always so interesting. Piero Della Francesca was a great mathematician and a student of perspective. Here are a few of my favorite panels and details from the frescoes. It’s amazing how good iPhone photos can be without a flash.
My favorite is the scene where the Emperor Constantine is dreaming to conquer with the Cross. It is the first night scene ever depicted in Renaissance painting. I also love the contemporary clothes and the perspective of the characters viewed with their backs facing us. And of course the closeup details. Oh, and I love the Annunciation scene. The madonna is very similar to the one we saw later in the day: La Madonna del Parto (pregnant).
We drove to the small town of Monterchi from Arezzo. It has only about 1500 inhabitants, and the only two sites of interest to tourists are the Madonna del Parto in the Museo Civico and a museum of balances (weights and measures). The Madonna del Parto was removed from the wall of the church after an earthquake and restored here in a private room for viewing. Sadly, it was very hot Saturday, but it was wonderful to see the actual painting, which was much smaller than what I imagined. I love how she looks like she’s ready to have the baby soon! I thought it was a rare depiction of a pregnant Madonna, but apparently there is an old tradition of painting her this way. Pregnant women would come to her to pray for a safe childbirth. In fact, they still do. Pregnant women get into the museum free, and many have left notes of prayers to this Madonna. Some of the notes were written by the children. When they removed the fresco from the church wall, they discovered under it an older fresco of the Madonna of the milk, which was also an ancient traditional veneration. We couldn’t take photos of the Madonna del Parto, but I will add one from Google images. They believe he painted it in honor of his own mother because Monterchi is her home town.
We loved the view of a little Umbrian town in the distance, Cisterna, and want to visit it some day. There are so many hill towns in Tuscany that few visitors get to see as they are not as famous. We had a lovely dinner a fuori (outside) in a restaurant called Senza Tempo, meaning without time. Before dinner we walked around the town, but it seemed that everyone was attending the wedding at the town center.