Letter from Signorelli to Corrado Tarlatini (recto), paper, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Ms. MA 4261 (purchased as the gift of Mrs. Landon K. Thorne, Jr., 1985). Copyright: Pierpont Morgan Library.

James Banker

James Banker is Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University, where he had taught European and Italian history with advanced courses in the Italian Renaissance. He currently lives in Sansepolcro, where he continues his research on Piero della Francesca and Luca Pacioli. Banker received his PhD under the Florentine economic historian Marvin Becker at the University of Rochester, writing a dissertation on the ars dictaminis in the early Trecento at the university in Bologna.

Banker developed an interest in the history of death, and the town of Borgo San Sepolcro possesses some of the earliest documents on death, so he made their ceremonies surrounding death the centre of his research. This led to his first book Death in the Community: Memorialization and Confraternities in an Italian Commune in the Late Middle Ages (1988). Research for this book demonstrated to him the riches of the Archivio Notarile Antecosimiano, specifically revealing previously unknown documents on Piero della Francesco. This led to numerous articles on Piero, the most important of which are noted below, especially significant the 2005 article in the Burlington Magazine in which he recounted his discovery that Piero had copied the Opera of the Greek mathematician Archimedes and drawn approximately 225 geometrical figures. In 1994 in recognition of his contributions to the history of Sansepolcro and the life of Piero, the communal government of Sansepolcro made Banker an honorary citizen.

Notarile documents were the principal basis for his 2003 book The Culture of Sansepolcro during the Youth of Piero della Francesca, in which he recounted the decade of the 1430s as fundamental in Piero’s formation as a painter. This book has been translated into Italian as Il giovane Piero della Francesca e la cultura della sua terra. Further research in the archives in Florence, Rome, and Sansepolcro provided the basis for two books in 2013: Piero della Francesca: Artist and Man and Documenti fondamentali per la conoscenza della vita e dell’arte di Piero della Francesca.

A select list of articles: Un documento inedito sull’attività di Piero della Francesca per la chiesa di S. Francesco in Borgo San Sepolcro, «Rivista d’arte», 42 (1990), pp. 245-247; The Program for the Sassetta Altarpiece in the Church of San Francesco in Borgo San Sepolcro, «I Tatti Studies», 4 (1991), pp. 11-58: Piero della Francesca, il fratello don Francesco di Benedetto e Francesco dal Borgo, «Prospectiva», 68 (1992), pp. 54-56: Piero della Francesca’s Friend and Translator: Maestro Matteo di Ser Paolo d’Anghiari, «Rivista d’arte», 44 (1992), pp. 331-340: Piero della Francesca as assistant to Antonio d’Anghiari in the 1430s; some unpublished documents, «Burlington Magazine», 135 (1993), pp. 16-21: A Legal and Humanistic Library in Borgo San Sepolcro in the Middle of the Fifteenth Century, «Rinascimento», 33 (1993), pp. 163-191: Piero della Francesca, the Carpentered Altarpiece of San Francesco, His Sant’Agostino Polyptych, and Quattrocento High Altarpieces in Borgo San Sepolcro, «Arte cristiana», 804, n. 89 (2001), pp. 210-218: Contributi alla cronologia della vita e delle opere di Piero della Francesca, «Arte cristiana», 92 (2004), pp. 248-258.