Last time I bothered to update my mobile phone software, I found, included among the extra features, an option to take panorama shots with the phone’s camera. I experimented with this as I was walking to work, and came up with street views that instantly reminded me of Luciano Laurana. Here was my home town, suddenly opened up and widened out. Its streets had become ample and uncluttered, converging on a single vanishing point, just as if a Renaissance draughtsman had planned them. Its buildings looked noble and protective.
I have never been to Urbino, sadly. But I will go there one day. As i write this, I am preparing the 2nd edition of Blue Guide The Marche & San Marino for publication. And when I get to Urbino, the first thing I shall do is go to see the Città Ideale, in the Galleria Nazionale. This Utopian scene, unpeopled and unpigeoned, is thought to have been one of three panels commissioned by Federico da Montefeltro, the great one-eyed warrior-prince.
An hour or so after arriving in the office, on Facebook, I saw that the Patrimoni dell’Umanità d’Italia had posted a photograph of Florence. Perhaps it was taken with the very same telephone that I have, updated to the new software.
Of course, we all know that the Renaissance began in Florence, but until today I had never thought of its street layout as being remotely “ideal”. How wrong I was! All you need is a panoramic camera app and suddenly the Renaissance is all around you, projecting onto your retina a world where all is order, where chaos is banished, where spaces are uncluttered, harmoniously arranged, affording wide vistas of tranquil geometry.
The ‘ideal city ‘ in the National Gallery of Urbino looks deserted, but it is not unpigeoned – if you look carefully you will find two of them on the building to the right. I suppose they were ubiquitous, even then!