Piero della Francesca (ca. 1416 – 1492) has long been one of my favorite artists, one whose works I’ve gone out of my way to view.  (Finding the Madonna del Parto – a pregnant madonna – in the Tuscan village of Monterchi is not simple.)  Piero was from San Sepolcro, on the Umbrian border of Tuscany.  While he spent some time in Florence and worked in many cities in central Italy, San Sepolcro was always his home.  He is probably best known for his frescoes in the Franciscan church in Arezzo but he also painted portraits and altarpieces.  His works span a good part of the fifteenth century and his backgrounds evolve from flat gold to detailed scenery and clever use of foreshortening for perspective.  There is a luminous quality to his art, a particular stillness that seems to highlight emotions and even, paradoxically, action.  Last year the Frick, which includes four Piero works in its collection, had an exhibition with paintings Piero made in San Sepolcro, mostly panels from the San’Agostino altarpiece.  Now, at the Met Museum, there is a small exhibit (four paintings) called Piero della Francesca Personal Encounters.  Two paintings are devoted to Saint Jerome and two are Madonna and child.  You can get very close to the paintings and it’s fascinating to see the detail in background landscape (reflections in water, shadows) and Piero’s use of light.  There is a calm and apparent simplicity in these works that, for me, confirms Piero as one of the more moving painters of the early Renaissance.