There are figures in the history of art that brought such innovative ideas that they triggered a veritable revolution. One of these is certainly Piero della Francesca, the protagonist of the exhibition “PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA. Il disegno tra arte e scienza” [the drawing between art and science], curated by Filippo Camerota, Francesco Paolo Di Teodoro and Luigi Grasselli, that will be held at Palazzo Magnani in Reggio Emilia from March 14 to June 14, 2015.
The Master from Sansepolcro has always been surrounded by a halo of mystery and enigma due to the scarcity of documents concerning him, but also to the peculiarity of his expressive language, which magically combines, in perfect balance, the plasticity and monumentality of Giotto and Masaccio with an extraordinary capacity of abstraction and suspension. His essential and pure shapes are, in fact, well-grounded in his mathematical and geometric interests, so admirably expressed in the treaties he left us: the Abacus, the Libellus de quinque corporibus regularibus, the Deprospecitva pingendi, and the more recently discovered Archimedes. The exhibition at Palazzo Magnani will focus precisely on these precious testimonies of Piero della Francesca’s scriptographic work, and particularly on his treaty De prospectiva pingendi [On perspective in painting].
“PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA. Il disegno tra arte e scienza” will present the figure of the great Master from Sansepolcro in his double role of designer and great mathematician. For the occasion, Palazzo Magnani will also house an extraordinary event taking place for the first time in the last half millennium: the display of the entire graphic and theoretical corpus of Piero della Francesca’s work: the seven specimens - some in Latin, others in vernacular language - of the work called De Prospectiva Pingendi (preserved in Bordeaux, London, Milan, Paris, Parma, and Reggio Emilia), the two codes of the Abacus (Florence), the Libellus de quinque corporibus regularibus (Vatican City) and Archimedes (Florence).
But the exhibition will not only be the first and unique opportunity to admire all the graphic works produced by Piero della Francesca together (an extremely important event itself for art scholars from all over the world). Rather, it will offer a journey through the Renaissance, the unique Italian period that influenced Western art and thinking (and much more) by producing the greatest masterpieces of all times – today unparalleled icons of the global figurative culture and of our collective imagery.
The journey has been commented by the scientist Piergiorgio Odifreddi, whose words are available in the audio guide that will accompany visitors among Piero’s graphic and pictorial works. These include the magnificent detached fresco of “San Ludovico da Tolosa” from the Museum of Sansepolcro and the paintings and graphic works of other great masters of the 15th and 16th centuries, such as Lorenzo Ghiberti, Ercole de’ Roberti, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Giovanni Bellini, Francesco di Giorgio,Albrecht Dürer, Bernardo Zenale, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Amico Aspertini,Michelangelo, and many others. All the works have been lent by prestigious Italian and foreign institutions like the Sbb-Pk Staatsbibliothek of Berlin, the Municipal Library of Bordeaux, the National Library of France, the British Museum, the British Library, the “Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe” of the Uffizi Gallery, the National Gallery of Umbria, the Vatican Museums, the Laurentian Medici Library, the National Central Library of Florence, Milan’s Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Parma’s Biblioteca Palatina, Galleria Estense of Modena, the Municipal Museum of Sansepolcro... just to mention a few.
The fulcrum of the exhibition will be the treaty De Prospectiva Pingendi (On perspective in painting), one of the most important testimonies of the fundamental work on perspective done by Piero della Francesca, that normally resides in the Panizzi Library of Reggio Emilia. The manuscript, written by a copyist, shows numberless corrections, side notes and extensive additions handwritten by Piero himself, which prove the continuous text revision work done by the author. It consists of 110 sheets containing many drawings made by the artist: very thin lines that mark the pages of the code that illustrates the text, showing the extraordinary graphic skills of the master.
The so-called “masters of perspective”, i.e. the inlayers, founded their art on the repertoire of themes and images of the treaty, and the fraternal friendship between Piero and the brothers Lorenzo and Cristoforo Canozi from Lendinara, inlayers par excellence, deserved mention by Luca Pacioli. In many of his writings, Albrecht Dürer showed that he knew Piero’s treaty, while Daniele Barbaro even wrote most of his famous treaty on perspective (1569) along the lines of Piero’s De Prospectiva Pingendi.
If it is true that only Constantin Winterberg (in 1899) told that Leonardo, after learning from Pacioli that Piero had written a treaty on perspective, gave up writing his own, and the fact was never demonstrated or confirmed by others, we cannot avoid saying that such a high comparison was a fortune for Piero and underscored the extraordinary and innovative nature of his major works, to place him above all the perspective painters of his time.
The works displayed at Palazzo Magnani – about a hundred pieces among paintings, manuscripts, printed works, engravings, sculptures, tarsias, painted tiles and medals – accompany the visitor along a path that follows the themes dealt with in the various chapters of the De Prospectiva Pingendi, so that walking from a room to another will be a bit like leafing through its pages. The sequence starts with Piero’s geometric principles and continues with plane figures, geometric bodies, architecture, the human figure, the projection of shadows and anamorphosis.
Furthermore, the exhibition is conceived as a tool and a “teaching machine” to explore the art and creativity of this most peculiar artist. The drawings of the treaty are transformed into three-dimensional models to better illustrate the logic of their geometric construction, while a series of mathematical machines of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia scientifically reproduce the tools of the artist’s Renaissance studio, thus allowing visitors to touch with their hands and understand the techniques used by the painters to creatively play with the tricks of vision.
Suggestive multimediainstallations will enliven the exhibition, together with augmented reality browsing apps created to facilitate the comprehension of the famous “Ideal City” of Urbino, one of the masterpieces of Renaissance perspective, a necessary complement to the treaties on this subject.
All the equipment and systems used for the installations have been provided by Imago rerum team of the IUAV University of Venice, DCP - Department of Design Cultures, and the Multimedia Research Department of the Marche Polytechnic University, which cooperated with the Palazzo Magnani Foundation by taking care of the scientific aspects for the project, with also Cr-Forma of Cremona for the scientific analysis on the reggiano code of De prospectiva pingendi.
The exhibition will take place at Palazzo Magnani, which, however, will be only the central location of a network of places and signs that will involve the entire city. In fact, the exhibition path will also involve the San Prospero Basilica, where the stalls of the sixteenth-century choir will focus the visitors’ attention on the Emilian production of wooden tarsias. Another significant part of the exhibition is the Reggio Emilia headquarters of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, that house a large section dedicated to mathematical machines, where workshops for school students of all ages will be organized.
An international must-go for all these reasons, “PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA. Il disegno tra arte e scienza” has been designed to explain the expressive language of the Master, who was defined as the “Monarca a li dì nostri della pictura e architectura” [king of painting and architecture of our time] by Luca Pacioli in the Divina proportione (1509), as well as to decipher the reading codes of his work by shedding a new light on an artist that managed to transform science into art and who influenced, at a great distance in time, the avant-gardes of the early Twentieth Century, as well as metaphysical painting.
INFORMATION ON THE EXHIBITION
PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA. Il disegno tra arte e scienza.
(The drawing between art and science)
Palazzo Magnani, Reggio Emilia
March 14 – June 14, 2015
with the support of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism
within the framework of the culturalevents of Expo Milano 2015
Exhibition promoted by:
Palazzo Magnani Foundation
Authority for the protection of the Historical, Artistic and Ethnoanthropological Heritage of Modena and Reggio Emilia
Municipality of Reggio Emilia
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna
With the support of:
Province of Reggio Emilia
Dioceses of Reggio Emilia and Guastalla
Cassa di Risparmio Pietro Manodori Foundation
Chamber of Commerce of Reggio Emilia
In cooperation with:
Panizzi Library of Reggio Emilia
Laboratory of Mathematical Machines, UniMoRe
Exhibition organized by:
Palazzo Magnani Foundation
Studio ESSECI, Sergio Campagnolo
Exhibition and catalogue curated by:
Luigi Grasselli, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
Filippo Camerota, Galileo Museum, Florence
Francesco P. Di Teodoro, Politecnico of Turin and Centro Linceo Interdisciplinare "B. Segre" – Lincei Academy
Piergiorgio Odifreddi (Chairman)
Maria G. Bartolini Bussi, Filippo Camerota, Stefano Casciu, Mons. Tiziano Ghirelli, Enrico Maria Davoli, Francesco P. Di Teodoro, Luigi Grasselli, Roberto Marcuccio, Massimo Mussini