Even among the marvelous works of Piero della Francesca, this panel is one of the wonders of the world. Some scholars believe that the piece was never finished; others hold that its condition is the result of drastic overcleaning.|
Although the shepherds are present, the subject is Mary’s adoration of her child. Her face, no less than the oil technique, suggests Piero's study of Netherlandish painting. Yet we see his ability to unify all the elements into an ideal representation rather than ennumerating details like a miniaturist.
As always in the work of Piero the composition has great simplicity, arrived at through subtle and complex solutions to the problems of perspective, lighting and architectonic structure. The tone is of an overwhelming clarity, as if the Child has brought a glorious new dawn.