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The Palazzo Medici, also called the Palazzo Medici Riccardi for the later family that acquired and expanded it, is a Renaissance palace located in Florencemarker, Italymarker.

The palace was designed by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo for Cosimo de' Medici, of the Medici family, and was built between 1445 and 1460. It was well known for its stone masonry that includes rustication and ashlar. The tripartite elevation was used here as a revelation of the Renaissance spirit of rationality, order, and classicism of human scale. This tripartite division is emphasized horizontal stringcourses that divide the building into stories of decreasing height. This makes the building seem lighter as the eye moves up to the extremely heavy cornice that caps and clearly defines the building's outline.

Michelozzo di Bartolomeo was influenced in his building of this palace by both Roman principles and Brunelleschian principles. During the Renaissance revival of classical culture, Roman elements were often replicated in architecture, both built and imagined in paintings. In the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, the rusticated masonry and the cornice had precedents in Roman art.

Similarly, the great Renaissance architect Brunelleschi used Roman techniques and influenced Michelozzo. The open colonnaded court that is the center of the Palazzo plan has roots in the cloisters that developed from Roman peristyles. The once open corner loggia and shop fronts, were walled in during the 16th century. In their place many believe Michelangelo placed ground-floor "kneeling windows" (finestre inginocchiati) supported on innovative scrolling consoles and framed in pedimented aedicules that recall the the similarly-treated main doorway.



The Palazzo Medici Riccardi was one of the numerous palazzi built during the period of Florentine prosperity. The building reflects the accumulated wealth of the Medici family, yet it is somewhat reserved. The fifteen-year-old Galeazzo Maria Sforza was entertained in Florence in 17 April 1459, and left a letter describing, perhaps in the accomplished terms of a secretary, the all-but-complete palazzo, where his whole entourage was nobly accommodated:
...a house that is— as much in the handsomeness of the ceilings, the height of the walls, smooth finish of the entrances and windows, number of chambers and salons, elegances of the studies, worth of the books, neatness and gracefulness of the gardens, as it is in the tapestry decorations, cassoni of inestimable workmanship and value, noble sculptures, designs of infinite kinds, as well of priceless silver— the best I may ever have seen..."


Niccolò de' Carissimi, one of Galeazzo Maria's counsellors, furnished further details of the rooms and garden:
"decorated on every side with gold and fine marbles, with carvings and sculptures in relief, with pictures and inlays done in perspective by the most accomplished and perfect of masters even in the very benches and floors of the house; tapestries and household ornaments of gold and silk;silverware and bookcases that are endless... then a garden donein the finest of polished marbles, with diverse plants, which seems a thing not natural but painted."


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Cosimo received the young Sforza in the chapel "not less ornate and handsome than the rest of the house." The palazzo still includes, as its only quattrocento interior that is largely intact, the notable Magi Chapelmarker, frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli, who completed it in 1461 with a wealth of anecdotal detail of character types so convincing they were traditionally held to be portraits of members of the Medici family, along with the emperors John VIII Palaiologos and the Emperor Sigismund of Luxemburg, parading through Tuscany in the guise of the Three Wise Men.

The Medici were thrown out of Florence because the Florentines prided themselves on their republic and saw the Medici family as a threat to that power. When the Medici family returned to Florence, they kept a low profile and executed their power behind the scenes. This "low profile" is reflected in the plain exterior of this building, and is said to be the reason why Cosimo de' Medici rejected Brunelleschi's earlier proposal.

Notes

  1. Fabriczy, Michelozzo di Bartolommeo, 38, 41f.
  2. Aby Warburg, "Die Baubeginn des Palazzo Medici", in Gesamelte Schriften, (Leipzig and Berlin) 1932: v. I, 165.
  3. Vespasiano da Bisticci estimated that the structure alone had cost 60,000 ducats; the inventory of moveables in 1492 totalled just over 81,000. (Rab Hatfield, "Some Unknown Descriptions of the Medici Palace in 1459" The Art Bulletin 52.3 (September 1970:232-249), p. 235 and notes.
  4. "...with such honor that where the least important of them is staying, the emperor could be accommodated," asserted Niccolò de' Carissimi in a letter quoted by Hatfield 1970:232.
  5. Tapestries covered walls that were simply finished in intonaco, complementing the rich painted and gilded woodwork of ceilings.
  6. Hatfield 1970:232.
  7. Hatfield 1970:233.
  8. Christina Acidini Luchinat discounts this long-held legend in her essay in The Chapel of the Magi. Benozzo Gozzoli's Frescoes in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi Florence (London: Thames & hudson) 1994.


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This building also makes an apperance in Assassins Creed 2


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