Frances Barth responds to Piero della Francesca's painting Saint Jerome in the Wilderness (1450) on view in the exhibition Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on view through March 30, 2014.
Barth writes: "When I saw 'St. Jerome in the Wilderness' at the Met show, I was immediately struck and silenced in front of it. The amazing spatial adjustments of the trees on the left had for me an energy and restraint at the same time that seemed almost to be a choreographed ballet. I was taken by the strange placement of the books in the recess of the rock. It was mesmerizing. St. Jerome, in his up front and so close size felt like a mystical challenge. The red of his hat was like a tremolo to the entire painting, and of course the density and weight of the lion threatened the middle space. The salmon stripe of the house behind the large tree can break your heart by its perfect amount and intensity, and the sky has an eccentric voice of its own. For that matter, I think another one of the amazing things about this painting for me is that all the quietly different voices of the painting’s components still live in energized restraint together."