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The Medici

Mary Hollingsworth
“Florence in ashes rather than under the rule of the Medici“, an often quoted saying from the siege of Florence in 1530 by Pope Clement VII.

Mary Hollingsworth is a scholar of the Italian Renaissance and has previously published The Cardinal's Hat, The Borgias: History's most notorious dynasty, Conclave 1559 and Patronage in Renaissance Italy: From 1400 to the early sixteenth century.

Wealthy Banker, wise politicians, patrons of the arts and glittering Dukes, these are the images that history has given us of the Medici, in this sumptuous book the author sets out to reveal the hidden side that the Medicis's propaganda left out. Ranging from the earliest record of the family arriving in Florence to the end of the dynasty with the death of the last dissolute childless Duke.

It covers a vast period from 1216 to 1737 and is well written and exhaustively researched, with copious sources and notes at the rear of the book, along with clear and concise mapping, not only of Florence and the Duchy of Tuscany, but all of Italy and the wider European nations. But the most striking part of the book is the wealth of illustrations, here it is unstinting with copious pictures of artworks, buildings and statues. From the lavish reproduction of Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco The journey of the Magi to Bethlehem (on textured paper, not smooth paper) on the cover to the picture of the interior of the Cappella dei Principi at the end of the last chapter its a feast for the eyes.

The narrative itself is well written and has excerpts from contemporaries to highlight details, the period it covers is long and involves many events outwith Florence's immediate environs which had a bearing on the Medici and Florence's fortunes, from Edward's Wars in France through to the Fall of Constantinople onto the War of Spanish Succession. As the story moves on the cast of players involved widens as the Medici's influence grows ranging from various Popes (including members of the Medici family), such well known historical persons as Galileo and various crowned heads of Europe.

The story behind the Medici's extremely successful propaganda has endured down to today, where they are still mostly remembered for their influence as patrons of the Arts and as key influencers of the Italian Renaissance. While it is true they were patrons of the Arts and one of the reasons why even today Florence is such a mecca for tourists, the reason behind their patronage and its aims are here explained in the wider political and strategic context.

It is an excellent book, and indeed a weighty tome, I think its worth 5 out of 5 mushroom heads, however as it comes in at a hefty £35 it might be worth waiting for a paperback edition.
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This is one review copy I shall be keeping a tight hold of and shall not be lending to anyone. To simply leaf through the various illustrations and read an excerpt is the ideal way to while away an evening whilst Mrs CC once again indulges in some “quality car crash TV“.
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