In the early 15th century Romana da Monterchi married Benedetto de ‘Franceschi, belonging to a rich merchant family of Sansepolcro. They had children, among them Piero, future painter, mathematician and treatise writer. This is the first certain information on the connection the painter from Borgo Sansepolcro found to have with Monterchi, but we do not know if Piero visited often his mother’s place of origin. His presence in Monterchi however is attested by the Madonna del Parto, presumably painted between 1452 and 1455 in the church of Santa Maria di Momentana.
Piero’s mother died on 6 November 1459 in Sansepolcro, where she was most probably buried, while so far no documents have been identified that make the work in Monterchi a tribute to his maternal family. Tradition has it that Piero had fallen in love with a local peasant woman and depicted her face on that of the Madonna del Parto.
Basically the answers to why Piero painted in Monterchi are still to be found. A trace is given by the cult of fertility that Piero, by the will of an unknown client, would have renewed in the particular iconography of his fresco. But the mystery that surrounds the origins of this masterpiece does not obscure the beauty of one of the most significant Renaissance works. Even today the gentle hills surrounding Monterchi, its cultivations and small hamlets, the Cerfone river that flows sinuously across the plain, bring to mind the landscapes of Piero della Francesca and make this small village an obligatory stop to discover the art of the great painter.
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