The paintings of Piero della Francesca have remained intriguing because of their distinctive three-dimensional space and unemotional figures, but the artist himself remains a mystery. Curiously, his activities were not confined to painting. He wrote treatises on perspective, commercial arithmetic, and geometry, all without ever settling in any of the centers of great intellectual achievement. James R.Banker has unearthed previously undiscovered documents that make it possible for him to write a social biography of the artist that accounts for his early formation. The Culture of San Sepolcro during the Youth of Piero della Francesca examines the culture of the southeastern Tuscan town of Piero's youth. Analyses of San Sepolcro's political and social organization and its specific religious culture serve to enhance our understanding of Piero's early career prior to his experiences in Florence.
Piero della Francesca has remained an enigma because of the contradictions observed in his life and art. Banker's archival research has enabled him to clear away some of the obscurities. This book situates Piero in the earliest social and intellectual worlds within which he moved. Heretofore, writers on Piero have begun his putative formation in Florence in 1439. Banker demonstrates that the young painter's formation began prior to 1439, when he was surrounded by his family and the local artisans' community.
The Culture of San Sepolcro during the Youth of Piero della Francesca integrates social and art history in order to better understand the formation of a Renaissance artist. It will be vital to scholars and historians of the Italian Renaissance city states, as well as to art historians and those interested in the relationship of art and society.
James R. Banker is Professor of History, North Carolina State University.