Reaching For His Fate


Jerry Saltz praises an exhibition at The Frick Museum gathering seven works by the the 15th century painter Piero della Francesca. Saltz was especially stuck by the painting “Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels” (detail above):

Mary isn’t looking at her child and looks instead at the rose he reaches for. You begin to glean the revelation she is having. The flower represents love, devotion, and beauty. It also symbolizes blood and the crown of thorns Christ will wear. This child who will suffer a horrendous death reaches for his acceptance of fate. Mary does not pull the flower back. You sense an inner agony, noticing her deep-blue robe open to reveal scarlet beneath, symbol of outward passion and pain to come. In the dead-center vertical line of the painting is Christ’s right palm that will be nailed to the cross.

Walter Kaiser steps back to find the core of Piero’s brilliance:

[W]hat, in the end, is most idiosyncratic about Piero is the essential nature of his mind, which was molded both by artistic and by mathematical, geometric perceptions—a perfect union of art and science. When Piero looked at the world, he ineluctably perceived its geometric forms and mathematical perspectives, and it is this uncommon mental capacity that caused Roger Fry and others to see him as a precursor to the formalism of Cézanne and Seurat.