Monday, March 09, 2015

The Chapel of the Magi in Palazzo Medici by Franco Cardini

Bonnie and I bought several books on our trip to Florence and Rome. Of the three about specific historical sites, the most narrative is The Chapel of the Magi in Palazzo Medici by Franco Cardini. Unlike most books for tourists which include primarily photographs with captions, this book features detailed and illustrated essays on the history of the beautiful private chapel in what was once the palace of the Medici family in Florence.

The Medici were the most powerful of the families in the city state of Florence during the Renaissance, a time when there was a community obsession with the story of the magi bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. Annual Florentine Epiphany parades were elaborate, and leading financiers and merchants vied to lead them. Also, competition among the elite families as sponsors of art was fierce, and the painting of frescos in the Medici family chapel was as much about community standing as about personal pleasure in owning great art. After Gentile de Fabriano painted a renowned gilded alterpiece Adoration of the Magi for the Strozzi family, Cosimo de Medici had to have an even grander depiction of the Magi. Oddly, it is one without the Holy Family - just the Magi and their many attendants.

The small chapel with its grand frescos is one of our favorite places in Florence. Getting a book about its origins, the story in the frescos, and how the chapel has been preserved is just what a couple of librarians would do.

Cardini, Franco. The Chapel of the Magi in Palazzo Medici. Mandragora, 2001. 93p. ISBN 8885957641.

See the frescos here. The colors are richer that the website shows.

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