The double portrait of the Dukes of Urbino, also known as the Diptych of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza is a diptych, oil on panel (47 × 33 cm each panel), with portraits of the Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza. It is the work of Piero della Francesca dated to about 1465 to 1472 and in the collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It is one of the most famous works of the Italian Renaissance.
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- IT IS A DIPTYCH – The profile portraits, displayed today as a pair of paintings, are tempera works painted on wooden panels. However, in the past, they were connected by hinges, which locked the Duke and Duchess’s gazes. Today, the hinge has been abandoned, and the paintings share an elaborate gold frame at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.
- IT DEPICTS A MERCENARY DUKE – The work captures the Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro. He was the commander of a band of mercenaries who would be hired out by Italian city-states to battle on their behalf.
- THE DUCHESS’S PORTRAIT WAS PAINTED IN MEMORIAL – Before Piero could complete the matching panel, the 26-year-old Duchess Battista Sforza died of acute pneumonia brought on by childbirth on July 7, 1472. Some have suggested her pale skin is not a sign of status—women of privilege didn’t toil in the sun—but more the pallor of death. The artist likely used Sforza’s death mask for reference.
- THE STAGING REFLECTS THE COUPLE’S POWER – The Duke and Duchess are poised high above the landscape in the background, as if they are atop a tower. Thus, they have a bird’s eye view over their sprawling domain, speaking not only to Urbino’s hilltop position, but also to the pair’s high status.
- THE DUCHESS’S HAIRDO SHOWS SHE WAS THE HEIGHT OF FASHION – When these paintings were made, high foreheads were all the rage. Ladies would dedicatedly pluck away at their hairlines to achieve this coveted look.
- PIERO EMPLOYED GEOMETRY IN HIS COMPOSITIONS – The works of this Early Renaissance artist have fascinated art enthusiasts for centuries, in part because he used his mathematics background to work out the pleasing shapes and staging of his scenes.
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