Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Delving into the Medici

After three years of living in Florence, discovering the infinite beauty and grandeur of its story, its art and architecture, I’ve spent much time studying the masterpieces that I pass by every day through a myriad of resources. I have learned as I go along, slowly, randomly and spontaneously, when for some reason provoked by curiosity and love, without method, pressure or time limitation.

The more I learn, the more I realize how crucial it is for me to develop an in-depth understanding of the Medici Dynasty and its political history, to fully appreciate Florence beyond its surface.  Each and every work of art, every corner, every courtyard, palazzo, basilica and museum was born and backed by a member of the Medici family whose brilliance, wealth, foresight and appreciation for classical thought propelled Florence out of the Middle Ages and into the grand era of the Renaissance, making Florence what it is today.

As I began learning its art, I was naturally compelled to learn about a particular masterpiece and its artist, paying less attention to the person who actually made it possible, albeit, knowing that some variation of a Medici was responsible, but getting confused as to which Medici was which. I bought a chart of the Medici family tree, which I thought would put the lineage into proper historical perspective. But that confused me even more. It rather resembled a corporate organizational chart, muddled by the fact that many of the Medici had the same first names. I acknowledged that in order to connect the dots, it was time to embark upon a serious introspection into the Medici history.

I browsed Florence’s bookstores in search of the perfect book that would bring the Medici history into perspective in a novelistic, exciting, unintimidating and readable format which would crystalize for me the story of Florence’s greatness and provide me with a rich understanding of everything around me, in a non-history book format.  I found my book, The Rise and the Fall of the House of Medici by Christopher Hibbert.

Since it covers a span of 300 years, it is a slow but loveable read, and as I have found, not exactly beachside reading material.  It presents Florence within the context of its rich history, and is accompanied by an index that covers every significant work of art and artist of Florence, which allows it to be used as a valuable reference tool as well.  I will be appreciating and re-reading this book for a long time to come.