The “Unsuitable Angels” of Benozzo Gozzoli


Commissioned by Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici, the frescoes of the family’s chapel, at the Medici palazzo, located on Via Camillo Cavour, Florence, were executed  around 1459 by the artist, Benozzo Gozzoli. The program of works however, did not take place without small criticisms from the patron and a written exchange between Piero and Benozzo. The following translated text documents the artist’s reply to Piero and also interestingly reveals how the hot, summer weather could affect artistic praxis.


Lord Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici, Careggi. July 10 1459.

This morning I had a letter from your lordship through Roberto Martelli. And I learned you thought the seraphs I had done were not suitable. I made one in a corner among some clouds, of which nothing is to be seen but some wing points, and it is so hidden, and the clouds cover it in such a way, that it doesn’t create any bad effect, but rather adds beauty. And that is next to the column. I made one on the other side of the altar, also hidden in the same way. Roberto Martelli saw them and said it was nothing to make a fuss over. Nevertheless, I will do whatever you order, two clouds will wipe them out. I would have come to talk to you, but this morning I began to apply the azure, and it can’t be left; it’s very hot, and the glue could go bad at any moment. I think in another week I will have finished this level. I think you will want to see it before I remove the scaffolding. 

And I also learned you had ordered Roberto Martelli to give me what was necessary; I had him give me two florins and they will do for now. I keep working as much as I can, what I do not do will be left through not knowing. God knows I have nothing on my mind that weighs on me more than this, and I am constantly looking for methods, so I can do something I can satisfy you with, at least in a large part. Nothing else for now. I commend myself to your lordship. Your servant,

Benozzo di Lese, painter in Florence.


Reference: Benozzo Gozzoli’s Patron Asks for Revision in His Work.” In Creighton E. Gilbert, Italian Art 1400-1500: Sources and Documents in the History of Art, ed. H.W. Janson, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1980, pp. 8-9.


Images: Angels in Adoration (right-hand side), c.1459, fresco, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence. Public domain image.

Angels in Adoration (ledt-hand side), c.1459, fresco, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence. Public domain image.


Posted by Samantha Hughes-Johnson.


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