Palazzo Medici Riccardi Overview
The Palazzo Medici Riccardi is located in Via Cavour, 1 (formerly Via Larga) nearby the Church of San Lorenzo. It is not only one of the main palaces in Florence, but it represents the paradigm of the harmony reached through the assembling of the early Renaissance architecture and the late Baroque one.
Its construction was carried on between 1444 ca. and 1460 from the plans designed by the Florentine architect and sculptor Michelozzo Michellozi (1396-1472) who was the trusted architect of Cosimo de Medici the Elder, as well as of other prominent members of the Medici family of his age. In his youth, Michelozzo had been disciple of Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, becoming later assistant to the great Donatello.
Cosimo the Elder commissioned from Michellozzo the project of the palace after having rejected the design created by Brunelleschi because of the excessive ostentation, in his opinion, of its external features
For the main members of the Medici family Michellozzo projected as well: the first courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio; the Medici Chapel located in the indoors of the Basilica of Santa Croce; the Chapel of the Crucifix within the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte (1458), commissioned by Piero de Medici “Il Gotoso”in order to preserve and exhibit the miraculous crucifix of San Giovanni Gualberto (now hosted in the Church della Santissima Trinità, Florence) and the amazing Medicean villas situated in Cafaggiolo (1452 ca.) and Careggi (1458 ca.).
The superb building created by Michelozzo denoted the onset archetype of the main Renaissance palaces in Florence, where each storey was visibly defined and a big cornice was topping off the roof border.
The hard Doric columns and the arcades of the courtyard, with its respective asymmetrical entrances, situated at the corner of the ground floor were built from the prototype of palace’s courtyard created by his illustrious teacher, Filippo Brunelleschi, in the 15th century.
Since then and for more than a century the palaces of the highest Florentine families were for the most part designed into Palazzo Medici Riccardi’s style.
In 1450 ca, Piero de Medici, son of Cosimo the Elder, commissioned from Michelozzo the construction of a Chapel on the first floor of the palace. The design of the Chapel was ideally symmetrical.
The indoors of the Chapel were divided into two quadrangles put side by side; a big hall; a rectangular elevate apse with the altar and two tiny sacristies on each side.
The marvellous ceiling, designed as well by Michelozzo, was recovered of inlaid wood painted and preciously gilded by the Florentine painter and sculptor Pagno di Lapo (1408-1470), called “Il Portigiani”.
Pagno di Lapo spent the main part of his youth as assistant to Michelozzo and Donatello. He was engaged to execute several ornamentation works in different main religious sites in Tuscany: the font of the Baptistery in Sienna (1428) and the pulpit of the Cathedral in Prato (1430 ca.). In Florence, he was also assigned for the decoration of important works hosted in San Lorenzo Church, as well as to carry out the bronze doors of the north sacristy of the Duomo.
In the Chapel, Michelozzo designed as well its sophisticated floor covering in marble mosaic, which was divided by geometric designs and composed of precious materials such as porphyry and granite.
The former altar panel representing the Madonna in adoration of Jesus Child was painted by the eminent Florentine artist Fra Filippo Lippi, around 1459.
This panel was sold at the beginnings of the 19th century and it is currently preserved in the Gemaeldegalerie in Berlin. It was replaced by an excellent replica attributed to Pier Francesco Fiorentino, a follower of Fra Filippo Lippi.
Above all, the Chapel is worldwide famous for its series of wall paintings by Benozzo di Lese di Sandro (reapplied Bennozzo Gozzoli by the great Giorgio Vasari, his first biographer): “The Angel in Adoration” located in the rectangular apse and “The Journey of the Magi” on the big hall. The wall paintings were painted between 1459 and 1463 ca.
Benozzo himself and some members of the Medici family are portrayed on these frescoes series. In “The Journey of the Magi”, on the north wall of the hall, Lorenzo de Medici (later Lorenzo the Magnificent) represents King Casper. Among the retinue of King Casper, can be clearly identified Cosimo the Elder, his sons Piero (later Piero “Il Gotoso”), Giovanni and Carlo, as well as the youngster princes Lorenzo and Giuliano, sons of Piero, and Benozzo Gozzoli.
Benozzo Gozzoli was born in Florence in 1420 and died in Pistoia in 1497. He started working as a goldsmith with the eminent Lorenzo Ghiberti. Later he was introduced in Rome to Fra Angelico who became his painting teacher and rapidly engaged the young Benozzo as his assistant. Between 1444-1447 he collaborated again with Ghiberti in the creation of the “Doors of the Paradise” destined for the Baptistery in Florence. In 1447, Fra Angelico and Bennozo Gozzoli were commissioned by Pope Eugene IV to decorate together one of the chapels of the Palazzi Vaticani in Rome. Afterwards, Pope Nicolas V entrusted both of them the decoration of the Nicolina Chapel. Benozzo Gozzoli is believed as a masterly of the Italian “Quattrocento” and his frescoes series in this Chapel are as well regard as masterpieces from the early Renaissance.
The amazing indoors of the Chapel hosted too a wonderful wooden baldachin, which was designed inlayed and carved by Giuliano da Sangallo in 1469 ca.
In 1460, when Palazzo Medici Riccardi (formerly called Palazzo Medici as it pertained to the Medicis) was terminated the Medici family moved to it.
In the second decade of the 16th century the palace was partially remodelled. The arcades were closed, becoming a covered loggia, and the great Michelangelo Buonarotti designed two supplementary windows. In this period was set up in the courtyard the celebrated statue of “Orpheus” by the Florentine sculptor and painter Baccio Bandinelli (1493-1560) who is believed as one of the greatest mannerist Italian sculptors.
In 1540, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de Medici and his family left the palace and moved to Palazzo Vecchio, then the headquarters of the Tuscan Government.
The palace has been the residence of the Medici family during more than two centuries: since the dynasty was respectively headed by Cosimo the Elder, Piero de Medici “ll Gotoso”, Lorenzo de Medici “the Magnificent” and Cosimo I de Medici, until he moved to Palazzo Vecchio. Following, it became the residence of other lesser members of the Medici family until 1699, when Ferdinando II de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1620 to 1670, sold the palace to the Marquises Gabriello and Francesco Riccardi, who purchased it for a total amount of 40,000 “scudi” (the Tuscan currency at that time).
The Riccardi family amplified the back side of the building and commissioned the construction of the magnificent “Mirrors Gallery” (now called “Gallery of Luca Giordano”).
The infinite vaulted ceiling of the Gallery was gorgeously frescoed, between 1682 and 1686 ca, by the famous Neapolitan painter Luca Giordano (1634-1704). He painted there a long series of frescoes, which are an allegory of divine wisdom. They are believed among the masterpieces created by the brilliant Neapolitan master.
Some of the frescoes depict scenes from the Greek mythology, such as the impressive representations of Charon and Morpheus, but the most imposing are probably the frescoes called “The creation of man” and “The Triumph of the Medici in the clouds of Olimpus Mount”, devoted to honouree the Medici family noted for their excellent relationship with the Marquises Riccardi.
North Side of Florence
The Cathedrals : Basilica di San Lorenzo, Basilica di San Marco
Main Monuments : Palazzo Pucci, Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Main Museums : Accademia Gallery, Museo Archeologico
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