Piero della Francesca, Diptych of Federico da Montefeltro & Battista Sforza, 1465 to 1472, tempera on panel, 47 × 33 cm each, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
Piero della Francesca, 1420-1492 was one of the great artists of the early Italian Renaissance. He painted religious works that are marked by their simple serenity and clarity. He was also interested in geometry and mathematics. His paintings are known for the care with which he rendered the landscapes that provide the backgrounds for his figures. This diptych is one of the most famous works of art of the Italian Renaissance. It depicts the duke Federico da Montefeltro and his wife Battista Sforza. The duke, leader of mercenaries, skillful strategist and a great patron, turned Urbino into a refined and renowned cultural center. It was there that Piero carried out this masterpiece between 1465 and 1472. The double profile portraits are reminiscent of the classical portrait medals and gives an ancient solemnity to the two Dukes. Their busts in the foreground dominate the wonderful landscape in the background, in order to emphasize the majesty of the court of Urbino. Choosing the representation in profile was an inescapable choice. In fact, the Duke lost his right eye during a tournament and for this reason only the left side of his face is portrayed. His nose was also broken in a tournament. The Duchess is richly dressed and has an excessively high forehead, according to the fashion of the time. The diptych is also painted on the back. Federico and his wife are shown on two antique wagons in the company of the Virtues. The Duke wears his armor just like a leader, while he is crowned by the Victory; the Duchess sits in a chariot pulled by two unicorns, symbols of chastity, to emphasize her pious and gentle soul. Thanks to his aristocratic and hieratic art, Piero achieves the noble goal to make the memory of the two Dukes eternal. With his rational, almost metaphysical style, the great artist achieves the perfect representation of the Renaissance man, aware of the centrality of his role in the universe and the importance of his intelligence and his culture.