A Case of Teenage Diplomacy: Galeazzo Maria Sforza’s First Impression of the Medici Palazzo

In the Spring of 1459, the teenage Galeazzo Maria Sforza (heir to the Duchy of Milan) was present in Florence, being one of the members of a dignified retinue that would escort Pope Pius II onwards from Tuscany to Mantua. The Medici had apparently played an important role in financing the neophyte Sforza dynasty, as Galeazzo Maria’s father Francesco, a former mercenary, was keen to simultaneously modernise and beautify the city of Milan (by way of magnificent expenditure) and legitimise his de facto position within the duchy as the Sforza dukes would not obtain official investiture until the quattrocento was coming to a close. 

Accordingly, when Galeazzo Maria Sforza wrote to his parents concerning the newly constructed Medici palazzo, the praise levelled at the Cosimo “il Vecchio” de’ Medici’s new home may well have been a veritable recollection of youth. However,  it was also perhaps a politely diplomatic response that reflected the extent of the Sforza’s financial reliance on this Florentine clan. 

I took leave of their lordships and finally, accompanied by the above mentioned crowd of gentlemen and peopl, all of whom were on holiday by public proclamation as if it were Easter Day, arrived here at the house of the magnificent Cosimo, where I discovered a house that is both in terms of the beauty of its ceilings, the height of its walls, the high finish of the entrances and the windows, the number of bedchambers and reception rooms, the ornateness of the studies, the worth of the books, the neatness and gracefulness of the gardens, and in terms of the tapestry decorations, chests of inestimable workmanship and value, majestic sculptures, designs of infinite kinds as well as of priceless silver, the most beautiful I may ever have seen, or believe it possible to see… 

I visited the esteemed Cosimo who I found in one of this chapels which lacked nothing of the ornateness and beauty of the rest of the house…

On return to the house I dined in the garden of the esteemed Cosimo under a loggia. In fact it gave me the greatest of pleasure to see this garden again. In my opinion it is the most beautiful and most ornate I have ever seen. 

The images below represent a small portion of the architecture and objects that Galeazzo Maria may have seen and been impressed by. It must be stressed however, that there have been many additions and changes made to the palazzo and its internal decorations since the quattrocento. Furthermore, some artworks that were once housed within the confines of the palazzo in Cosimo “il Vecchio’s” era, can now be located in other civic settings. Further still, some of the internal decorations may still have been in progress during the 1459 visit

Images

Image of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi: Courtyard by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo, 1445-60, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence. Web Gallery of Art. 

Piero del Pollaiuolo, Portrait of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, c. 1471, tempera on panel, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Web Gallery of Art. 

View of the Chapel with frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli, 1459-60, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence. Web Gallery of Art. 

A Further View of the Chapel with frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli, 1459-60, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence. Web Gallery of Art. 

The Palazzo Medici Riccardi at Night. Wikimedia Commons. 

Donatello, David, 1430s, bronze, height, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence. Wikimedia Commons.

Donatello, Judith and Holofernes, 1455-60, bronze, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. Wikimedia Commons.

Giovanni di Ser Giovanni Guidi (called Scheggia), Birthing Tray of Lorenzo de’ Medici showing The Triumph of Fame, c. 1449, tempera, silver and gold on wood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Purchase in memory of Sir John Pope-Hennessy: Rogers Fund, The Annenberg Foundation, Drue Heinz Foundation, Annette de la Renta, Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Richardson, and The Vincent Astor Foundation Gifts, Wrightsman and Gwynne Andrews Funds, special funds, and Gift of the children of Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Logan, and other gifts and bequests, by exchange, 1995. Public Domain. 

Image of The Walled Garden at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Wikimedia Commons.

Fra Filippo Lippi, Adoration of the Child, c.1459, oil on panel, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. Web Gallery of Art. 

Paolo Uccello, Niccolò da Tolentino Leads the Florentine Troops, 1450s, tempera on wood, The National Gallery, London. Web Gallery of Art. 

References:

Jardine, Lisa and Brotton, Jerry, Global Interests: Renaissance Art Between East and West, London: Reaktion Books, 2000.

Kent, Dale V., Cosimo De’ Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: The Patron’s Oeuvre, London: Yale University Press, 2000. 

Neville, Jennifer, Eloquent Body: Dance and Humanist Culture in Fifteenth-Century Italy, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indianapolis University Press, 2004.

https://www.palazzomediciriccardi.it/en/

Sforza, Galeazzo Maria, “Letter to His Parents (1459).” In Peter Elmer, Nick Webb and Roberta Wood (eds.), The Renaissance in Europe: An Anthology, London: Yale University Press in association with The Open University, 2000, p. 226. 

Trexler, Richard C., Public Life in Renaissance Florence, London: Cornell University Press, 1980. 

Posted By Samantha Hughes-Johnson

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