Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

223 × 145 × 28 mm
368 pages
94 colour illustrations
18 Jan 2021
Renaissance Lives

Piero della Francesca and the Invention of the Artist Machtelt Brüggen Israëls

As one of the most innovative and enlightened painters of the early Italian Renaissance, Piero della Francesca brought space, luminosity and unparalleled subtlety to painting. In addition, Piero invented the role of the modern artist by becoming a traveller, a courtier, a geometrician, a patron and much else besides.

In this nuanced account of his life and art, Machtelt Brüggen Israëls reconstructs how Piero came of age. Successfully demystifying the persistent notion of Piero’s art as enigmatic, she reveals the simple and stunning intentions behind his work.

‘a fascinating study, with copious illustrations of the entrancing paintings under discussion . . . Brüggen Israëls brings an extraordinary depth of knowledge of and love for the work to her 310-page study . . . a handsome production, with glossed pages highlighting the work to optimum effect.’ — Paddy Kehoe, RTE Culture

‘Israëls’ book captures the essential clarity, truthfulness, and modernity of Piero della Francesca’s art in prose that skillfully evokes his technical mastery and subtle artistry. Piero’s career is followed chronologically and contextually, and staged in terms of the roles he adopted and performed – pupil and master, citizen and courtier, devotee and scientist among them. Close looking and careful description reveal the intellectual rigour and expressive force of his paintings. The book is as magisterial as its subject in achieving a new and compelling perspective on his life and work.’ — Patricia Rubin, Emerita Professor of Art History, New York University

‘Israëls’s text plunges the reader back into the fifteenth century so that Piero della Francesca’s art can be seen through his eyes and those of his contemporaries.’ — Carl Brandon Strehlke, Philadelphia Museum of Art

‘Marshaling an impressive body of new archival, technical, and contextual evidence, [Israëls] returns us to the artist’s era, offering fresh perspectives on his frescos, panel paintings and manuscript treatises. Her carefully crafted and deftly written narrative allows us to peer over the artist’s shoulder, bringing us closer to Piero and the legendary artworks that earned him the nickname “the monarch of painting”.’ — Nathaniel Silver, William and Lia Poorvu Curator of the Collection, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Show all

Machtelt Brüggen Israëls is Lecturer in Italian Renaissance Art at the University of Amsterdam and Visiting Professor at the University of Florence. Her previous publications include The Berenson Collection (2015).


1 Pupil
2 Traveller
3 Rhetorician
4 Master
5 Citizen
6 Devotee
7 Courtier
8 Scientist
9 Patron
10 Monarch

Select Bibliography
List of Illustrations