Monday, April 1, 2013

Cosimo de' Medici and the art of home-court advantage

For reasons I cannot explain, on no prior trip to Florence did I tour the Palazzo Vecchio, the palace that was for quite some time the center of government.  Today, I did.


From the outside, the building is a large square fortress with a single tower, impressive but not remarkable.  When Cosimo de' Medici came to town, though, he decided to change all that.  He told his builders to keep the outside the same, because after all, the common folk needed to see continuity of government and stability and all that.

The inside, though, was practically a tear-down.

Given his reputation, we can guess that his actual instructions were rather more moderate and circumspect than these, but this is the gist of what he demanded.  Move any walls you need to.  Raise the ceilings.  Build me a welcome hall that will make a king's nuts shrivel when he enters.  Give me work quarters of unrivaled art and luxury, and on the floor above me, build a parallel set--I'll use those, too--where the art likens me to all the cool gods.  (Maybe some of that godly stuff will flow down on me, not that I need it, of course.) And, oh, yeah, give Dad a room, but not too nice a one. 

Did I mention unrivaled art? Don't waste any wall or ceiling space; I want the good stuff everywhere I look.  Oh, yeah:  be sure to put my Capricorn and turtle-with-a-sail symbols and our family crest everywhere.

And they did.

Here's a view from the back of the welcome hall.

As always, click on any image to see a larger version.

To get a sense of scale, that statue in the center of the faraway front starts about six and a half feet off the ground. 

Did I mention ceilings?  Here's a small bit of this room's ceiling.

I'd love to put up more of the roughly ninety pictures I took in the building, but it's late, I slept badly last night (sinus attack, seems to be better now), and so I'm going to stop with the art luxury happy snaps.  Suffice to say that I'm really glad I finally took the time to tour the Palazzo Vecchio, and I strongly recommend it to anyone visiting Florence.

I can't resist two last photos.  When Machiavelli was the Secretary of Florence and the de' Medici were out of power, this rather large room was where he worked.  (I shot this in the evening; the light would have been fantastic in the daytime.) 

Makes a point, doesn't it?

Here's the crafty guy himself, a statue in that same room.

Okay, one more shot:  As you walk along through the rooms for the Priors (one of the governing bodies), you stroll by this little display.  Most people passed it without a second glance.

In case you have trouble reading it when you magnify the image, that's Dante's death mask.  That my shadow is in its upper left is pure happy luck. 

And that, in a way, is how Florence is for me.  We have a deal, Florence and I, an unspoken, unplanned agreement that governs our love affair.  I love her unconditionally and completely--not exclusively, for she has no problem with me loving many other cities as long as my love for her is true and strong, as it is.  In return, she blesses me with magic every single day I'm here.  Sometimes, it's a big thing, like the Palazzo Vecchio.  Other times, it's a tiny thing, like the shadow in this photo.  It's always magic, though, and so our affair endures. 

Ah, Firenze, ti amo!


Karen Z said...

I think I erred in my comment on another post. _This_ is my favorite post so far. :)

Mark said...

Thanks, Karen!


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