The Maecenas of Urbino, Duke Federico da Montefeltro
extended his old Medieval mansion, turning it from a fortified castle into a palace city. The building of the Ducal Palace in Urbino
, which began in 1445, were carried out by Luciano Laurana, by Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Girolamo Genga. The cultured and learned Duke Federico da Montefeltro, patron and brave leader made his palace the cradle of Italian art, calling to his court the most distinguished artists of the time: Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Melozzo da Forli, Luca Signorelli, Giusto di Gand and Pedro Berruguete, writers such as Baldassare Castiglione and Pietro Bembo and Ottaviano Fregoso, architects such as Leon Battista Alberti and Baccio Pontelli, philosophers, mathematicians such as Luca Pacioli and Paulus von Middelburg, poets such as Bernardo and Torquato Tasso and musicians like Ottaviano Petrucci from Fossombrone.
The Flagellation of Christ
by Piero della Francesca
, made between 1444 and 1469, is one of the masterpieces kept in the Palazzo Ducale. The scene is set in a classical and Renaissance architecture, with a grid floor and coffered ceiling that help to give the impression of depth. In fact, the tablet - in spite of its small size - shows large exhibition spaces thanks to the masterful application of the perspective. The light comes from two different points, from left and right, and also illuminates the ceiling frame under which it is placed the Christ; the extraordinary strength of Piero's art is in his way of using colour, which in him is immediately light, with the shape, until it assumes plastic value.
The whole scene is stopped and immobile, and this impression is accentuated by the use of a clear, diffused light that comes from angels, but it doesn’t have any religious value no longer. The composition is very balanced: to the closed left environment corresponds to the right an open environment; the men surrounding Christ match with those in the foreground who are supposed to be Cardinal Bessarione, Buonconte da Montefeltro and Giovanni Bacci, characterized by "frozen" gestures in a kind of suspended animation. The tablet was probably sent as a gift to Federico da Montefeltro to persuade him to support the crusade advocated both by Pope Pius II in 1459 and by the same Bessarione to free Constantinople from the Turks.
This justifies the presence of the young Buonconte da Montefeltro, represented barefoot and pale, as if he was already dead. In fact the boy had died because of the plague in 1458. His sufferings are compared to those of scourged Jesus Christ, of whom he recalls the gestures and consequently even those of the Eastern Christians.
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