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season two

Episode 14: Renaissance, The New

This first century BCE Roman fresco from the villa of Publius Fannius Synistor in Boscoreale in modern-day Naples, which demonstrates a partial use of vanishing point, a technique that would not be perfected until the Renaissance. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Giotto’s Crucifix (c. 1290-1300). Note the realistic details such as Jesus’ facial expression and the wound in his side. Source: The Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini, Italy.
Masaccio, The Expulsion (c. 1426-1428). Note the fig leaves added to the version on the left, before they were removed with the 20th century restoration shown on the right. Source: Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence.
Donatello’s David (c. 1440s?), the first freestanding nude sculpture made in Europe since antiquity. Source: Patrick A. Rodgers, the Bargello, Florence.
The Monastery of Batalha in the Central Region of Portugal. Source: Waugsberg.
The dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, erected by Filippo Brunelleschi. It remains the largest brick dome in the world.
An image from I Modi (1524).

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season two

Episode 13: Renaissance, The Old

Raphael, The School of Athens, ca. 1510. It is a fresco that lies in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
A representation of the standard medieval western European representation of Perseus, from an astrological and occult guidebook, the Heidelberger Schicksalsbuch (1491), currently kept in the rare books collection of the University of Heidelberg. Note how Perseus is wielding an Arabic-style scimitar.
Altichiero de Zevio’s sketch portrait of Petrarch, c. 1375.
Anonymous portrait of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola.
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Tangent Episodes

Tangent Episode #3: The Life and Times of Dante

Domenico Peterlini, Dante in Exile, ca. 1860, at the Gallery of Modern Arts in Florence.

He was a political exile who sided with the wrong people at the wrong time and lost the love of his life. Also he was one of the greatest writers in history and got to shape the modern Italian language. 

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season one

Episode 12: The Founder of the Dynasty

Portrait of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici (c. 1563) by Cristofano dell’Altissimo. Source: Palazzo-medici.it.

We close out Season 1, “The Early Medici”, with a look at the life and death of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici, whose descendants would become the branch of the family we usually mean when we talk about the Medici. Not only is he the first prominent member of the family, however, he also founded the dynasty in the sense that he started the tradition of sponsoring forward-thinking artists, writers, and architects and in how his apparent reluctance to be a public figure actually inspired a formula for political success that would carry his descendants to greater heights than even his more ambitious forebears could have imagined. 

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season one

Episode 11: Sin and Profit

A portrait of bankers at a traditional banking table. Source unknown.

We take a step back from the life of Giovanni di Bicci dei Medici to look at banking, commerce, and religious and legal attitudes about usury and luxury in Renaissance Florence. How did the Medici and other Florentine dynasties prosper in banking when loans with interest were considered a grave sin and a form of theft? 

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season one

Episode 10: The Duke’s Wife and God’s Banker

A miniature depicting Valentina Visconti, Duchesse d’OrlĂ©ans, with the symbols of Milan and the Visconti family, from a copy of Cicero’s De natura deorum, c. 1400. Source: anne-marie.eu.

Around the dawn of the fifteenth century, two developments unfolded that would sooner or later change the future of the Medici family forever. In one, Valentina Visconti enters a miserable marriage with a French royal. In the other, Giovanni de Bicci de’ Medici takes advantage of Europe being split between two and even three rival popes by (allegedly!) bankrolling the church career of a former soldier who hobnobbed with pirates and robbers that eventually sees him become Pope.

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season one

Episode 9: Revolution

A statue of Michele di Lando in the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo. Source: Saliko via Wikimedia Commons.

After Salvestro de’ Medici helps stoke the flames of revolution, violence breaks out on the streets of Florence and a wool-comber is installed in the highest office of the republic. But who will really benefit from this proletariat revolt in the long term?

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season one

Episode 8: Unholy War

The papal palace at Avignon. Source: about-france.com.

In a time of simmering class tensions and growing exploitation of the poor, Salvestro de’ Medici turns against his conservative comrades and declares he’s on the side of the downtrodden. On his political agenda? Backing an all-out war against the Pope.

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season one

Episode 7: Apocalypse

In the spring of 1348, the Black Death reaches Florence, devastating its population but also clearing new avenues for the non-rich. In the aftermath, a moderately affluent landowner, Salvestro de’ Medici, embarks on a political career. Just how far can Salvestro make it, between siding with the conservative establishment against his own family’s populist sympathies and the antics of his violently unstable brothers?

Titled The Holy Trinity (c. 1427), this is a fresco by Masaccio that lies in the Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The realistic depiction of human remains is characteristic of the art trends that emerged during the half century following the Black Death.

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Categories
season one

Episode 6: King Walt

A fresco of St. Anne and the expulsion of Walter of Brienne, today in the Palazzo Vecchio.

Facing famine, plague, an unending war, and an economic recession, the Florentines resort to handing the keys over to a French nobleman with a glamorous but mostly empty title. Meanwhile the Medici, although still lurking in the shadows from our point of view, manage to establish themselves as populists during the chaos and violence to come.

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