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Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence the first Medici residence

Palazzo Medici and the Chapel of the Magi frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli

The Medici Riccardi palace is located in the heart of Florence and is a work created by the architect Michelozzo, commissioned by Cosimo the Elder.

Initially the construction of the building was entrusted to Brunelleschi, but since his project was too sumptuous, it was thought that the magnificence of the structure could have unleashed the ire of the citizens.

Cosimo thus commissioned Michelozzo, a good but undoubtedly more discreet architect, who created a cubic-shaped building with an imposing external appearance, but certainly more sober. He designed a central courtyard with Corinthian columns, inspired by elements belonging to classical art and by Leon Battista Alberti's Palazzo Rucellai almost simultaneously.

The building is located in a strategic point of the city: it is located, in fact, between the intersection of Via Larga (the current Via Cavour), Via de 'Gori, very close to the protected churches of the family (San Lorenzo and San Marco) and finally a stone's throw from the Duomo. All these areas give life to the so-called "Medici district".

The recurring feature in the building is sobriety combined with elegance. Michelozzo uses ashlar, a masonry made of stone blocks superimposed in staggered rows, worked in such a way that some boulders seem set back compared to others. This technique was, in the Middle Ages, reserved for public buildings where the city government was based.

The courtyard is created following a game of symmetries that in fact do not exist. The order consists of a portico with composite columns and capitals and ends with a frieze with medallions containing the Medici coats of arms.

THE CHAPEL OF THE MAGI by Benozzo Gozzoli

Numerous decorations were created inside the palace. One of the best known is certainly the Chapel of the Magi, a famous cycle of frescoes located on the main floor of the building by Benozzo Gozzoli, a pupil of Beato Angelico.

The three main walls represent the cavalcade of the Magi, a religious subject used as a pretext to represent the whole series of portraits and political figures belonging to the Medici family.

The frescoes develop scenographically around the viewer, giving the impression of being able to admire the procession represented without interruptions. The small working space was the family's private chapel.

At the end of the fifteenth century, the artistic collections of the Medici family were kept inside the residence such as Donatello's David placed in the courtyard, the works of Paolo Uccello, Botticelli, Verrocchio, Pollaiolo and many others.

Young artists were even hosted inside the palace. For example Michelangelo who spent his adolescence in Florence to study. Therefore, a broad cultural environment was created that favoured the emergence of Renaissance art.

With the death of Lorenzo in 1492, a great period for the whole city ended. Numerous revolts by the citizens led to the sacking of the building confiscating the assets in the name of the republic.

After several changes of ownership within the Medici family, the palace was sold by Ferdinand II to a wealthy banker family, the Riccardi.

Up to the end of the seventeenth century numerous transformations were carried out, while preserving the style and morphology characteristic of the fifteenth century, mainly showing respect for the work done by Michelozzo almost two hundred years earlier.

The palace was enlarged thus losing its original cubic shape. The ground floor was decorated with stucco cherubs, a very popular technique that characterized the Florentine Baroque.

The gallery on the first floor was built in 1685 which, despite not having an exceptional size, is famous for the large vault painted by Luca Giordano. It represents the apology of the Medici family, protectors and benefactors of the Riccardi family. The viewer is captured by the play of perspective given by the shades and brightness coherent with the daylight that filters through the large windows giving real illusionistic games.

The Riccardiana Library was also created as the seat of the family's book collections, also frescoed by Luca Giordano. Furthermore, the interiors were organized by raising the ceilings and decorating the walls.

The Riccardi family lived in the palace for about two centuries, known for having earned over time the name of one of the richest and most influential families on the Florentine scene.

The creation of the Museum inside Palazzo Medici Riccardi dates back to 1939. During the Fascist period it illustrated the history of the Medici family with a celebratory approach, almost as if to use the fame of the past for its own political propaganda.

In 1966 the flood damaged the layout and important restorations were necessary even if at the end of the works it was not considered necessary to reopen the Museum.

Around 2000 a multimedia explanation was created to prepare visitors to the Chapel of the Magi with information in various languages.

To find out about all the exhibitions at Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence and to book tickets and guided tours of the Magi Chapel by Benozzo Gozzoli, contact our information and reservations office on 055/2670402.


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The Uffizi Gallery houses the largest collection of paintings from Romanesque period to the 18th century. Nowadays the Uffizi still accommodates famous masterpieces exhibited in chronological order