1) SANTA MARIA NOVELLA OR SAN MINIATO?
Alberti's facade design for Santa Maria Novella is executed in 1470, almost 30 years after Piero has left Florence. Piero designs a similar church, however, in the fresco cycle in San Francesco in Arezzo (1452-66) in the scene of the Finding of the True Cross and Resurrection of the Dead Man.
Who's zooming who here? Did Piero know about Alberti's commission when he painted the fictive church in the 1460's? Or did Alberti see Piero's design before completing Santa Maria Novella? They are not identical by any means and one might suppose that because each of these men is writing treatises about perspective and math in art, that their creations would reflect a period interest in symmetry and perfect mathematical shapes in church facades. But when you compare the landscape painted behind the fictive church by Piero with the actual landscape to be seen behind Santa Maria Novella from some angles, the resemblance is uncanny.
Another consideration is that they were both following a church design already in place in the hills above Florence, that of San Miniato al Monte. San Miniato is a Tuscan Romanesque church of the 11th century and it, too, adopts large swaths of marble in geometric formations arranged symmetrically on a temple front:
Is he showing Alberti that he could be as fine an architect as the Florentine?
2) PALAZZO SPINI FERRONI
One other piece of architecture that appears in Piero's fresco cycle has its source in Florence as well. The lunette painting of the Exaltation of the Cross on the top left side of the chapel in Arezzo has two reddish towers on the right that form part of the wall of Piero's fictive Jerusalem:
The crenellations in groups of four, surmounting corbel arches with armory windows beneath, are particular 13th-century features that at first glance appear to resemble Palazzo Vecchio (1294-1314) in Florence:
But then it becomes clear that Piero may have another Florentine building in mind, Palazzo Spini-Ferroni, a medieval house (1289) that still exists on the river. Palazzo Spini-Ferroni has the corbel arches close to the crenellations just as Piero has painted them in his red towers. The archery windows are also slightly below the corbel arches as in the fresco towers.
Palazzo Spini-Ferroni was the site of a famous Franciscan miracle, the story of a boy who falls out of the building and is presumed dead, only to be resurrected by Francis posthumously. It is a story told by another fresco painter, Ghirlandaio in his Sassetti Chapel in Santa Trinita,Florence, in 1485:
He also doubles the towers in presenting Jerusalem's wall. The repeated towers are common in ramparts of city-states in the fifteenth century for defense. For Piero, in this painting, is the tower and its echo a way of remembering the walls of another city beyond Arezzo, the city of Piero's own transformation, resurrection, and site of a desirous return? Porta San Niccolo still stands as a remnant of the city wall Piero would have encountered in Florence in 1439:
The Exaltation Jerusalem is one way Piero pays homage to the artistic center that instructed and protected him.
One other way is in the images of reflection that appear in several of his works:
Constantine's battle in this fresco cycle:
The Baptism of Christ in London, 1450:
St. Jerome in Penitence (Berlin, Staatliche Museen, 1449-1451, overpainted then overcleaned, but the reflection still stands):
His experiences in Florence provide for years of literal reflection in the whole body of his work.