Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 4, Piero della Francesca

"In his youth, Piero applied himself to the study of mathematics, and even though by the age of fifteen he was on the way to becoming a painter, he never abandoned his studies."

--Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists (1549-1550)

Last July, I went to Italy on a partial scholarship to paint for two weeks. 

(See "Story of My Trip to Italy: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.)

In the middle time in Italy, I went on a field trip with many of the other artists.  We planned to visit several towns where we could primarily experience work by the early Renaissance painter, Piero della Francesca

First stop: Arezzo.

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Walls and ceiling at the Basilica di San Francesco in Arezzo.

We left the Basilica and wandered to the Cattedrale, up on a little hill.  My favorite fresco was this Magdalena:

 Piero della Francesco's fresco of the  Magdalena  in the Cattedrale di Arezzo.  I loved her regal, self-confidant expression, so self-possessed and dignified. 

Piero della Francesco's fresco of the Magdalena in the Cattedrale di Arezzo.  I loved her regal, self-confidant expression, so self-possessed and dignified. 

Then we got back on the bus and rode to Sansepolcro, Piero della Francesca's birthplace.

Here is the Misercordia, in the Museo Civico in Sansepolcro.  It is a very large fresco; the figure of the Madonna is much greater than life-size, stretching up to the tall ceiling.  I liked her protective gesture, the way she holds her cloak out like an umbrella over her followers.  To me, she represents a divine goddess figure, offering comfort, mercy, and compassion.  

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It's hard to see from my photo, but behind her the negative space shines completely of gold!

 Also in the Museo Civico, a detail of a Piero fresco of sleeping guys.

Also in the Museo Civico, a detail of a Piero fresco of sleeping guys.

 Some sleeping gals.... my artist-roommate  Kristen  and me snoozing on a long bus ride through Tuscany, oblivious to miles of gorgeous Italian landscapes rolling by outside our bus window.

Some sleeping gals.... my artist-roommate Kristen and me snoozing on a long bus ride through Tuscany, oblivious to miles of gorgeous Italian landscapes rolling by outside our bus window.

Then we arrived in Urbino, a medieval walled-city with a strong legacy from the Renaissance.

 Breathtaking city of Urbino!

Breathtaking city of Urbino!

 Getting in even closer... I can't believe people actually  live  here!!

Getting in even closer... I can't believe people actually live here!!

 Three artist friends outside the walls of Urbino.  Left to right : myself,  Christina , and  Kristen .  As a side note, Christina will be returning to Civita, Italy this summer, to teach a workshop:  "In Response to Place."   

Three artist friends outside the walls of Urbino.  Left to right : myself, Christina, and Kristen.

As a side note, Christina will be returning to Civita, Italy this summer, to teach a workshop: "In Response to Place."  

 I'm following Christina and Kristen up old cobbled streets in Urbino.

I'm following Christina and Kristen up old cobbled streets in Urbino.

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Getting distracted in a wonderful little Italian bookstore!

 Finally we arrived at the Palazzo Ducale!

Finally we arrived at the Palazzo Ducale!

 Detail of a Piero painting in the Palazzo Ducale, the  Madonna di Senigallia .  I was so attracted to the mysterious room behind the angel, and the way the sunlight falls through the windows on the left.

Detail of a Piero painting in the Palazzo Ducale, the Madonna di Senigallia.  I was so attracted to the mysterious room behind the angel, and the way the sunlight falls through the windows on the left.

 Here's the whole picture.

Here's the whole picture.

 This fresco was in the Palazzo, but it's not a Piero.  Nevertheless, I really liked it.  I could really relate to this one angel who wasn't paying attention.  Instead, she finds herself daydreaming... I wonder what is on her mind?

This fresco was in the Palazzo, but it's not a Piero.  Nevertheless, I really liked it.  I could really relate to this one angel who wasn't paying attention.  Instead, she finds herself daydreaming... I wonder what is on her mind?

 This fresco is by is another artist I don't remember (not Piero) but I just  love  the conspiratorial, private look passing between mother and son, as if they both understand each other quite well, and are about to smile!

This fresco is by is another artist I don't remember (not Piero) but I just love the conspiratorial, private look passing between mother and son, as if they both understand each other quite well, and are about to smile!

 After leaving the Duke's Palace, I met up with a couple of artist friends and we had a drink (my first negroni! quite memorable) and then we happily wandered up and down the old, twisting alleys.  I wrote a poem about the experience,  "Drunk in Urbino."  

After leaving the Duke's Palace, I met up with a couple of artist friends and we had a drink (my first negroni! quite memorable) and then we happily wandered up and down the old, twisting alleys.  I wrote a poem about the experience, "Drunk in Urbino." 

 Here's a photograph of one of my artist friends walking up the steep cobbled street.  Her name is  Theresa Morgan , and she is an incredible artist!

Here's a photograph of one of my artist friends walking up the steep cobbled street.  Her name is Theresa Morgan, and she is an incredible artist!

Just before leaving to find our bus to return to Civita, we reached a high point of the city, and there was this gorgeous overlook of rolling Italian hills in the evening light.

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Drunk in Urbino

To Christina

 

Women lost and laughing,

racing up and down the steep and cobbled streets

of ancient Urbino.

My heart is so full,

it bears the expansive unfolding of beauty,

the old bookshops and gelaterias,

the vistas opening up behind hidden alleyways…

I’m so full of poems, and art, and life,

a divine intoxication,

so perfectly drunk with you, my friend,

and that strong negroni, illuminated

by the evening light,

dark amber liquid, clear and strong,

pouring down the roof of the Duke’s palace.