Description of THE FRESCO
The Virgin is shown in the centre of a precious tent lined with fur. Though only a representation, she looks alive and real, in her fresh youth, with her enchanting face, her almond eyes and her light, bright skin.
Her blonde hair is tied up in thin braids wrapped around her head and held by a light white band which, after surrounding her perfectly shaped forehead, elegantly crosses behind her ears.
The very neat contours of her face are revealed by a thin but clear outline, which shows the confidence and sharpness of Piero’s expressiveness, still influenced by the Florentine school of drawing.
The Virgin’s beautiful face has no equal in history of art, as it can mix the natural simplicity, typical of a young country girl, with a sort of regal and supernatural attitude conveyed by her pearly bright skin which seems to release a light of its own.
She is a very young pregnant woman, as any other, waiting for her baby who is about to change her life; though, at the same time, she is also the one God has chosen to give redemption to mankind.
The Madonna is portrayed to exalt maternity: she is tall and really beautiful in her late pregnancy, which is more evident thanks to a lateral point of view; as a mother-to-be, she touches her womb with a protective gesture, which symbolises the annunciation and the arrival of the Saviour who will introduce himself to the believers.
The artist represented this figure with extraordinary realism: the Madonna is portrayed like a pregnant woman with her enlarging body, which causes her dress laces to unfasten while showing the white robe corresponding to the white line of the quadrangular necklining.
According to Antonio Paolucci (La Madonna del Parto, 1993), the Madonna del Parto is the actual figurative translation of the Ave Maria (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb …). He underlines Piero della Francesca’s ability to make the reality become holy and, at the same time, to give the sacred element the essence of a natural archetype.
Another direct reference is Dante Alighieri’s invocation to the Virgin in his Divine Commedy (Paradise, Canto 33):
Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son,
Humble and high beyond all other creatures,
The fixed limit of the eternal counsel,
Thou art the one who such nobility
To human nature gave, that its Creator
Did not disdain to make himself its creature.