Palazzo Medici Riccardi: two families, one masterpiece
Palazzo Medici Riccardi is one of the main features of Via Cavour (previously: Via Larga, the wide street), which connects Piazza San Giovanni to Piazza San Marco. We are in the very center of the medieval city and this building was founded by the most influent ever florentine family: the Medicis.
Cosimo de Medici – the Medicis forefather – come back to Florence after the exile in 1434. De facto it is the beginning of the Medici monarchy in Florence: the Signoria. Ten years later, in 1444, Cosimo commissioned the architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo to design and build the palace.
Michelozzo di Bartolomeo
Michelozzo (1396 – 1472) was Cosimo’s architect of choice. Engraver and architect, he worked, under Ghiberti, for the Cathedral as well. He worked under Donatello too, on the sacristy of the Santa Trinita Church. Palazzo Medici Riccardi is his most important work.
Cosimo’s – and Michelozzo’s – sobriety
Being banished once already, Cosimo wanted a severe, sober, low – profile style for the building, not to hurt the Florentines. Michelozzo perfectly nailed Cosimo’s request, with a mix of Florentine Gothic and classical severity and the use of Bossage (Bugnato).
The building was finished in 1452 or 1460. Cosimo dies in 1464. With Lorenzo what will later named Palazzo Medici Riccardi reaches its golden age…
From sobriety to grandeur: Lorenzo de’ Medici at Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Under Lorenzo “The Magnificent” – il Magnifico – the Palazzo becomes the centre of the artistic and social life in Florence.
It’s under Lorenzo and his wife Clarice Orsini that the building has a major overhaul, it incorporates adjacent areas and, most of all, it becomes an amazing museum, with pivotal works such as Donatello’s David (now at the Bargello Museum) and Paolo Uccello’s frescoes of the San Romano Battle (now at the London National Gallery).
But the most impressive artwork of the Palazzo is not a Lorenzo’s one, but one wanted by his father, Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici il Gottoso (the Gouty): the Cappella dei Magi (Magi Chapel).
Palazzo Medici Riccardi’s Cappella dei Magi
The Magi Chapel frescoes, painted in 1459 – 1461 by Benozzo Gozzoli, are one of the Renaissance masterpieces. The frescoes use a religious subject – the Magi, the three wise men – in a political way, merging that topic with the visit to Florence of Pope Pius II of the Piccolomini family. Less famous than the Ghiberti, Brunelleschi and Donatello works, the frescoes are a joy for the eyes and among the important ones to understand the relationship between gothic art and Renaissance on a side, and the vastness of the Medicis heritage.
The new owners: the Riccardis, and Palazzo Medici Riccardi today
Ferdinando II de’ Medici Grand duke of Tuscany, sold the Palace to the Riccardi family, bankers economically and politically connected to the Medicis.
Nowadays the Palazzo Medici Riccardi is a museum and the seat of the metropolitan council of Florence.
Visiting Palazzo Medici Riccardi with It’sFlorence! Will let you know everything about the secrets of such a long history and of its artworks walking in the Medici’s footsteps!