There's usually no mistaking a painting or fresco by Piero della Francesca for the work of any other artist of the Italian Renaissance. The absolute stillness and monumentality of his figures, erect and impassive, must strike the viewer as either strangely intentional or curiously inept. Often one makes a journey from the latter to the former perception as one stares for any length of time at the real thing, the frescos intact in their church-architectural context. Or perhaps another impresson will develop, of Piero as a precursor of such modern impersonalized, monumental figure painters as the Italian Futurists, or Botero, or Diego Rivera.
Piero, like Leonardo, was no simple guild craftsman. Rather he was a subtle mathematician, whose comprehension of perspective in painting was surely based on his manipulation of numbers. This interesting book, with some 32 color plates, turns the tools of historical scholarship on the interactive of Piero's mathematical humanism with his identity as a painter of religious iconography. There are many more of Piero's paintings to look at than of Leonardo's, and if anything the hidden codes - both the iconography and the clues about his patrons and their desires - are more baffling. This might be the kind of book to read in preparation for your next trip to Italy, if ever the dollar returns to a level to make such a project feasible.
Historian Carlo Ginzburg - author of The Worm and the Cheese - has written an even more stimulating "detective-novel" biography of Piero, "The Enigma of Piero", but it has no comparable color plates.
This is a well researched book and offers insights into the complex relationship between the art and the mathematics. A read through will certainly help the reader understand some key ideas in the approach of Piero and of other artists of the period. Interpreting Piero's work is a difficult task as there remains much that is unknown and has to remain as speculation, so there is a fine line to walk between the 'facts' such as they are, and Field's interpretations. If there is a criticism it is that the rigour of the mathematical approach inevitably seems to push away the poetic sensibility that is so alive in Piero's work. For an insight into how poetry and the maths might join up see the Piero text at jonathansansom.net
A fascinating book which is full of insights into Piero's art. Don 't be put off by the previous reviewer's comment about mathematics - this book is accessible and will enhance your appreciation of Piero even if mathematics isn't your thing! And of course the pictures are beautiful.