In our Medici: Portrait of a Family walk, we'll focus on the political and social history of Florence, dealing primarily with the rise of the Medici family and their impact on the Renaissance. We begin chronologically with the church of San Marco, which was the family church of the Medici during their early history. This quiet space, a bit off the tourist track, will provide a pleasant backdrop for laying the groundwork of the Medici family history, including manipulation of local guilds, invention of modern finance, and their history-changing patronage of the arts. We'll step into the convent attached, where in the 1430s Cosimo Medici I founded one of the first public libraries in the world, but which is now a museum to see some of the greatest works of Fra Angelico, who was once a friar here.
Depending on the conversation, we will move on from here to the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, designed by Michelozzo (who also redesigned the convent of San Marco for the Dominicans), and the seat of Medici power in Florence for over a century. In so doing we will trace the family from the era of the Republic to the era of the duchy, and their rise from rich merchants to rulers of a kingdom. We will make a special, timed visit to the Chapel of the Magi, decorated by Benozzo Gozzoli and a masterwork of Renaissance fresco. After this, we'll pay a visit to the unfinished church of San Lorenzo, which was intended to be sole dominion of the Medici family at the end of their power.
As we examine the work of Michelangelo (his Laurentian staircase is located off the cloister of San Lorenzo), Donatello, Ghirlandaio, Filippo Lippi, and Brunelleschi, we will return to some common themes: the relationship between power and art, the political upheavals and revolutions that undergirded the artistic upheavals and revolutions of the Renaissance, and the humanistic impulse of one of the most interesting families in history. At the conclusion of our time together, depending on how much remains, we'll stroll (appetites intact) into the market of San Lorenzo, once under the control of the Medici, and now the vibrant, sensual heart of culinary Florence.