Piero: Severity & the Eternal

(detail) Piero Della Francesca, Saint John the Evangelist, 1454–69, oil and temp
(detail) Piero della Francesca, Saint John the Evangelist, 1454–69, oil and tempera with traces of gold on poplar panel, 52 3/4 x 24 1/2 inches (The Frick Collection, New York)

Altoon Sultan blogs about the exhibition Piero della Francesca in America at The Frick Collection, New York, on view through May 19, 2013.

Sultan writes: "When people speak of his work as being calm, I would say 'still.' Rather than calm I see an austere presence, a severity of form and mien, in the sense of 'a strict or stern bearing or manner' (Mirriam-Webster). Many years ago, when I first saw the great Piero fresco cycle at Arezzo, I was surprised at how passionate the paintings were; I'd been expecting something cool and intellectual from looking at reproductions. This passion is contained within tight bounds, lending the works a sense of the eternal, of life not easily spent, of looking beyond 'this mortal coil.' "