Brera Madonna Piero della Francesca Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Brera Madonna is a painting by Piero Della Francesca, who was an Italian Renaissance master. It was executed between 1472 and 1474.

The art is currently housed in Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan where Napoleon kept it. Brera Madonna was commissioned by Federico III da Montefeltro of Urbino to celebrate the birth of Guidobaldo, who was Frederico’s son. It is also believed that it was commissioned to celebrate Federico’s conquest castles in Maremma. According to Federico, the child represents Guidobaldo while the Virgin is Federico's wife who died in 1472 and was buried at the San Bernardino.

The painting represents a sacred conversation with Mary (the Virgin) seen enthroned and a sleeping child in the middle. A host of saints and angels surrounds both the Virgin and the child. At the right low corner of the figure, Federico da Montefeltro, who is the patron of arts, is kneeling and wearing the armour. The entire background consists of the apse of the church in a Renaissance classical style that is hindered in a meticulous perspective which the feigned depth of coffer-vaulted apse can be calculated.

There is an egg hanging at the centre of the Brera Madonna that represents Mary’s fecundity as well as the promise of immortality and regeneration. The child is wearing a necklace of red coral beads, which is a colour that alludes to blood. The deep red coral beads is a symbol of death and life as well as the redemption that was brought by Jesus Christ. According to most historians, coral was used for teething, and kids often wore it. The two saints at the left of the painting are Bernardino of Siena and John the Baptist, while on the right are Peter Martyr, Francis and Andrew. In the picture, John the Baptist represents the patron saint of the Virgin, while Jerome is the protector of all the Humanists.

The painting skills and education that Francesca received from the service of the painter who was called to paint the famous coats-of-arms provided him with the extensive experience of utilising the pouncing technique in most of his drawings. The painting techniques and knowledge were acquired as a result of frequent repetition of the decorative and ornamental motifs. In most of his paintings such as the Brera Madonna, he used the free hand charcoal and incising drawing techniques. He also used the brush technique, and each of the drawing methods was applied in different constructive functions.