The Metropolitan Museum of Art is delighted to present Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters. This book—an appropriately small gem—has been published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Met around one of the jewels in the collection of the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice: Piero della Francesca's Saint Jerome and a Supplicant. This is the first time the panel has traveled outside Italy.
The exhibition and publication are the result of a rare convergence of events. Giovanna Damiani, Superintendent of Venice, and Matteo Ceriana, director of the Gallerie dell'Accademia, invited the Met to collaborate on a project involving the technical examination and cleaning of the Saint Jerome painting. Concurrently, Daniele Bodini and Alain Elkann proposed that the Foundation for Italian Art and Culture sponsor an event comparable in importance to the 2005 Met exhibition "Antonello da Messina: Sicily's Renaissance Master," for which they were responsible. The Met was pleased to embrace the project, and Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of the Museum's Department of European Paintings, worked in close collaboration with colleagues in Italy and Germany to make it a reality. Taking the Accademia painting as a starting point, he expanded the initial idea to create the first study devoted to Piero della Francesca's devotional paintings.
These magical pictures trace Piero's development as a painter of devotional images from his earliest work, made in Florence about 1439–40, to one of his latest, the solemn Madonna and Child with Two Angels painted for Federico da Montefeltro's court at Urbino—a loan made possible, in recognition of the Year of Italian Culture, by the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo and the work of the Italian Carabinieri Command. Although modest in scale, together the works testify to Piero's consummate power of invention and to his masterful combination of intimacy and gravity that both invited the viewer and inspire a sacral awe.