One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Piero della Francesca

From Herbert's essay "Piero Della Francesca":

Friends say: Well, so you were there and saw a lot; you liked Duccio, and the Dorian columns, and the stained glass at Chartes, and the Lascaux bulls--but tell us what you chose for yourself, who is the painter closest to your heart, the one you'd never give up for any other. A reasonable question since love, if true, should destroy the previous one, should enter, overwhelm your whole being, and demand exclusiveness. So I pause to think and reply: Piero della Francesca.

There is a finality in the leaves cast like cards upon the sky--a moment transformed into eternity.

--here the Renaissance master makes a direct reference to the tradition of Giotto. The figures of two monks in a desert landscape on cracked earth brushed with ashes, with a Byzantine bird overhead--Christ.

The time of day is as in other works by Piero: indeterminate, a pink-blue dawn or perhaps noon.

In their journey through the ages, the fresco's angels lost their sandals, and some clumsy restorer tried to replace them.

The dimmed, ash-gray landscape only brightens at the infinite horizon's line--an evocation of death, no doubt.

Venturi has observed that Piero's composition, his forms, aspire to geometry without entering Plato's paradise of cones, spheres, and cubes. He is, if one may use such an anachronism, like a figurative painter who has passed through a cubist phase.

Knowing that geometry devours passion, Piero never placed important events in perspective (unlike the ironist Breughel, vide The Death of Icarus).

But whatever key we may use, The Flagellation will remain one of the world's most uninterpretable paintings. We view it through a thin pane of ice--chained, fascinated, and helpless as in a dream.
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