Room 54

Central Italy 1430–1450

Florentine artists who came to maturity in the second quarter of the 15th century developed personal styles that built on the innovations of the preceding decades.

Paolo Uccello is celebrated for his ability to foreshorten objects, figures and horses, in line with new ideas about perspective. Fra Filippo Lippi combined the naturalism of Masaccio from earlier in the century with a delicate lyricism.

Piero della Francesca was born in Borgo Sansepolcro. From 1439 he could be found in Florence working with Domenico Veneziano. By 1445, he was back in his home town. Piero was both a painter and a mathematical theorist. He is the master of serene, monumental painting. His balanced pictures, like his mathematical investigations, were intended to reveal the rigorous order of God’s universe.

In Siena, artists such as Giovanni di Paolo might base their compositions on works by Florentine painters and sculptors, but they nonetheless continued to use a style indebted to local painters of the early 14th century.

The period also saw developments in altarpiece design. Sassetta’s masterpiece, the high altarpiece for the church of San Francesco in Borgo San Sepolcro, was double-sided and comparatively old-fashioned in that it was constructed from many different panels.

Francesco Pesellino’s Trinity altarpiece, by contrast, offered a different solution that was to dominate Italian art. Here, the various saints are united before a single landscape, above a predella, or lower tier, of narrative scenes.