Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: Resurrection

Piero della Francesca's Resurrection shows that the Renaissance was in full swing by 1460. In this work the viewer has no trouble perceiving depth, due in part to Piero's mastery of perspective. Piero is known today as an Italian painter, but his interests in his own time extended to mathematics—especially geometry. His concern with geometry can be seen in the triangular arrangement of the sleeping soldiers and Christ, and also in a book Piero wrote around 1480 on how to achieve perspective using line and color.

Resurrection by Piero della Francesca art
We can further note the influence of Renaissance culture in the subjects of the painting. You would be hard-pressed to find a medieval painting that depicted people resting so naturalistically, especially alongside the figure of Christ. Resurrection shows the dual concerns of the earthly and the "divine" that characterized the Renaissance. Artists tormented themselves trying to reconcile human life with the promises of Christianity, and Piero's work demonstrates this very struggle. It is commonly said that the sleeping figure whose head intersects Christ's flag pole is a depiction of Piero himself. If so, this contact could represent Piero's desire to connect with the divine and personally experience the rebirth of Christ's resurrection—a rebirth shown in the trees and foliage of the painting as one looks from left to right.

The figure of Jesus in Resurrection appears unduly muscular and flashy. He pauses to stare straight ahead, his leg propped, almost arrogantly, on his defeated sarcophagus, his arm holding in triumph the banner of the Pope. This contrasts with my impression of a more humble Jesus, one without concern for ostentatious displays. Aldous Huxley, writer of Brave New World, compared Christ's figure in Resurrection to that of a Greek athlete and noted his "physical and intellectual power." I'm not sure why Piero depicted Christ as such, as Jesus's power seemed to be neither physical nor intellectual.

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