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season two

Episode 18: Succession

At the height of his political power, Cosimo de’ Medici is being overwhelmed with illness and personal tragedy. Who will succeed him to his invisible, nameless throne? His son Piero, who unfortunately is a middle-aged man so sick no one thinks he will live for much longer.

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season two

Episode 17: The Invisible Throne

Cosimo de’ Medici quickly established a regime that operated within Florence’s constitution but gave Cosimo an almost unchallenged power over the state. Unfortunately, Cosimo’s government was a delicate structure, and the pandemonium of Italian Renaissance politics threatened to bring it all tumbling down. 

The exterior of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. Source: Yair Haklai, Wikicommons.
The interior of the Chapel of the Magi within the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. Source: theflorentine.net.
A portrait of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, former condottieri, and a key ally of Cosimo de’ Medici, by Bonifacio Bembo (c. 1460). He insisted on being painted wearing his battered and worn old campaigning hat.
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season two

Episode 16: How Cosimo United the Orthodox and Catholic Churches

With a combination of patience and political maneuvering, Cosimo turns the tables on his enemies and returns to Florence in triumph. His first major act is to host an attempt to reunify the long-divided Greek and Latin churches. It has rather mixed results, but it does make something clear to the rulers of Europe: Cosimo is no longer just a banker.  

An image believed to be the Byzantine Emperor John VIII, taken from a cycle of frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli depicting the Magi’s visit to the infant Jesus Christ but with the likenesses of various participants in the Council of Florence (c. 1459). Source: Magi Chapel, Palazzo Medici Riccardi.
Pisanello’s sketches of the Byzantine delegation at the Council of Florence (c. 1439-1449).
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season two

Episode 15: Preemptive Strike

As soon as he inherits his father’s place as head of the rich, international Medici Bank, Cosimo gets a target on his back in a Florence where politics are increasingly molded by the sponsorship of the rich and not by the guilds. The minute he steps on the public arena, not only is Cosimo’s political career is in danger, but his very life. 

Posthumous portrait of Cosimo de’ Medici by Bronzino (c. 1567). Source: La Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
Another posthumous portrait of Cosimo (c. 1519) by Jacopo Pontormo. Source: La Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
Posthumous portrait of Contessina de’ Bardi de’ Medici (c. 1567) by Bronzino. Pitti Palace, Florence.
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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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Categories
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’Orléans, 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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