This piece is one of the most idiosyncratic and inspired purchases ever made by the Art Fund.
The Forest Fire by Piero di Cosimo, c. 1505
© Ashmolean Museum
- Oil on panel Dimensions: 71 x 203 cm
- Art Fund grant:
- £3,000 ( Total: £3,000)
- Acquired in:
- Prince Paul of Yugoslavia
Its imagery is fantastic and accords with Piero di Cosmio's well-documented delight in the imaginary and the bizarre. Terrified animals and birds of all sorts are escaping the burning thicket and gather in a clearing. The work was inspired by Lucretius' De rerum natura from circa 55 BCE and the development of communication among humans and animals through noise and gesture. This does not explain the human-headed animals, however, which Piero added at the last minute, perhaps to emphasize the uncanny nature of the scene. The work was intended to be seen from above and not as a wall decoration.