The Private Life Of A Masterpiece
Is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca, finished around 1460. It is housed in the Museo Civico of Sansepolcro (Tuscany), the artist's hometown. The subject of the picture alludes to the name of the city (meaning "Holy Sepulchre"), derived from the presence of two relics of the Holy Sepulchre carried by two pilgrims in the 9th century. Christ is also present on the town's Coat of Arms.
Jesus is in the centre of the composition, portrayed in the moment of his resurrection, as suggested by the position of the leg on the parapet. His figure, depicted in an iconic and abstract fixity (and described by Aldous Huxley as "athletic"), is hanging over four sleeping soldiers, representing the difference between the human and the divine spheres (or the death, defeated by Christ's light). The landscape, immersed in the dawn light, has also a symbolic value: the contrast between the flourishing trees on the right and the bare ones on the left alludes to the renovation of men through the Resurrection's light.
According to tradition, the sleeping soldier in brown armor on Christ's right is a self-portrait of Piero. The contact between his head and the pole of the Guelph banner carried by Christ is supposed to represent his contact with the divinity.
Sansepolcro escaped artillery fire during World War 2 because Antony Clarke, the British captain charged with the task, had read aforementioned essay by Aldous Huxley which described The Resurrection as "the greatest painting in the world". Captain Clarke had never seen the painting but at the last moment (shelling had already begun) remembered where he had heard of Sansepolcro and ordered his men to stop. A message received later informed them that the Germans had already retreated from the area the bombardment hadn't been necessary and the town, along with its famous painting survived.