Palazzo Medici-RiccardiThe majestic bulk of the Palazzo Medici, opposite the church of San Lorenzo, bespeaks the power of a ruling dynasty. At the same time its limitation to bare essentials testifies to the wise lack of ostentation of the Medici family at that time. They presided over a democratic-republican community and would never have chosen to behave like city kings.The palace was built between 1444 and 1464 by Michelozzo for Cosimo the Elder. All the Medici princes lived and ruled here until Cosimo I (1540) moved into the Palazzo Vecchio. In 1655 it was acquired by the Riccardi family who enlarged it by extending the side of the palace; in 1818 it was bought by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Today it houses the Medici Museum (ground floor), the Prefecture (first floor) and the Biblioteca Riccardiana. Its valuable art treasures and furnishings have been severely depleted through being plundered, destroyed or sold off.
Official site: www.palazzo-medici.it
Address: Via Cavour 1, I-50100 Florence, Italy
Palazzo Medici-Riccardi Highlights
An interesting feature of the facade is that each of the three storys is very different from the others. The windows on the ground floor are supported on brackets that look as though they are "kneeling", and surmounted by wide arches, every other one with a triangular gable. The windows on the first floor have beautiful decoration, while the second floor is overhung by a heavy cornice. On the corner opposite San Lorenzo is the Medici coat of arms (seven balls topped by a lily).
The archway leads into the square courtyard, with twelve marble medallions above the colonnade and the statue of Orpheus by Baccio Bandinelli, then comes the smaller garden courtyard.
A stairway leads up from the main courtyard to the palace chapel on the first floor. It was designed by Michelozzo and the wall frescoes, the "Procession of the Magi to Bethelehem", are by Benozzo Gozzoli, and his main work. They incorporate two historical events, the magnificent assembly of bishops which took place in Florence in 1439 and which led to the union of the Roman and Greek churches, and the visit to Florence in 1459 of Pope Pius II, the great humanist Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini. There are portraits of some of the people who took part in these events including Joseph, the Patriarch of Constantinople (as the oldest of the Magi), John VII, Emperor in the East, and Lorenzo de'Medici (as a young boy).The frescoes are very well preserved and with their bright colors present a vivid and lively picture of Florence in the 15th century and the culture and prosperity of the Renaissance.The altarpiece is a copy of Filippo Lippi's famous "Nativity".
The interior of the palace was altered by the Riccardi family, and there are only a few of the original Medici rooms - on the ground floor, where the Medici Museum is, and on the first floor. The museum holds works of art and furnishings acquired or owned by the Medici, keeping alive the memory of the great dynasty that made Florence one of the greatest cities for Western art. Of particular interest are one of Filippo Lippi's most important works "Madonna and Child" (1442), the deathmask of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and Jacopo da Empolo's "Wedding of Catherine de'Medici and Henri II of France" (1533).
Galleria di Luca Giordano
The Galleria di Luca Giordano holds the Neapolitan artist's important fresco "the Apotheosis of the Medici Dynasty" (1682/1683).
The Galleria leads to the Biblioteca Riccardiana e Moreniana. The exhibition room is worth seeing. The vaulted ceiling is painted with frescoes by Luca Giordano (1683) on the allegorical theme of Intellect aiding Man to free himself from Enslavement by Stupidity.The library, founded in the late 16th century, has about 50,000 volumes and 4,000 old manuscripts, many of them miniatures.