(left) Saint Apollonia, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (right) An Augustinian Friar (Saint Leonard?), The Frick Collection, New York.
NEW YORK - The Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca exerts a particular hold on art lovers even six hundred years after his birth. The Tuscan province of Arezzo is to this day a thriving tourist attraction for pilgrims who follow the “Piero Trail,” which links some of his rare remaining works with places that provided him with inspiration in his long career. Come summertime, accents from around the world are heard whispering in every corner of tiny hill towns as devotees pay their respects to the master.
You don't need to set up a caravan to see his paintings this month, as New York’s Frick Collection is giving American aficionados a one-stop shop for Piero starting Tuesday, Feb 12th, when seven of his works come together in the first-ever monographic Piero show in the United States. It’s one of those events that you don’t want to miss if you care about painting.
Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels. © The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Six of the works are panels from the Sant’Agostino alterpiece; the Frick already had one, Saint John the Evangelist; and the others will be lent from around the world. The biggest loan of all is the separate Virgin and Child Enthroned with Attendant Angels, from the Sterling and Francis Clark Art Institute. It’s only been lent to a New York venue one other time in the last 60 years.
The setting is not shabby at all: the deluxe Oval Room at the Frick, with its marble trim, parquet floor and exquisitely turned out, dark wooden pilasters. Architect John Russell Pope designed the space in 1935, and while it is a far cry from the Renaissance in style, it has the bones to be worthy of Piero’s brilliantly composed work.