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season two

Episode 25: Into The Lion’s Den

To try to stop a war Florence is badly losing and take some steam out of the Pope’s vendetta against him, Lorenzo does something few politicians had done before or since: put himself directly in enemy territory. 

King Ferrante of Naples as one of the Magi who visit the infant Jesus Christ in Marco Cardisco’s Adoration of the Magi. Date unknown. Source: Civic Museum of Castel Nuovo, Naples.

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season two

Episode 24: Bloodshed

The Pope, his nephew, an archbishop, and a mercenary decide Lorenzo de’ Medici and his brother Giuliano have to die. Unfortunately, the conspiracy develops some hiccups, namely having to send a couple of clergy instead of a mercenary to take down Lorenzo…

Stefano Ussi’s painting imagining the assassination of Giuliano de’ Medici (although note that Giuliano was supposed to have been kneeling when he was killed) (date unknown). Source: Private collection.
Leonardo da Vinci’s sketch of Bernardo Bandini, one of the executed conspirators. Date: 1479.

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season two

Episode 23: The Calm Before The Storm

Lorenzo resorts to unsavory methods in order to keep the Medici bank afloat. In the meantime, his path crosses with the man who would prove to be his most relentless enemy: Christ’s representative on Earth himself. 

A fresco depicting Sixtus IV and some of the della Rovere-Riario family by Melozzo da Forli (c. 1477). Source: Vatican Museum.

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season two

Episode 22: Triumphs and Missteps

Not long after coming to power, Lorenzo de’ Medici has to fend off enemies at home and abroad. Unfortunately, in the course of protecting Florence from a crisis that could spiral out of control, Lorenzo sets the stage for a humanitarian disaster. But how much was he really to blame?

A contemporaneous portrait of Lorenzo’s brother, Giuliano de’ Medici, by Sandro Botticelli. Circa 1478. Source: Gemäldegalerie Berlin.

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season two

Episode 21: The Rising Son

Even as a small child, Lorenzo had been thrust into the role of the public face of the Medici regime. Now an adult, Lorenzo’s own marriage to a Roman noblewoman from a clan claiming the Emperor Augustus and Julius Caesar as ancestors is a chance for the Medici to ascend even higher. Meanwhile, Piero is finally succumbing to his gout, just when both the domestic and foreign situations are starting to fall apart. 

“The Counterattack of Michelotto di Cotignola” (c. 1455), one of Paolo di Dono’s three paintings commemorating the Florentine victory over Siena at the Battle of San Romano in 1423, commissioned by Piero de’ Medici. Source: The Louvre, Paris.
Boticelli’s Adoration of the Magi (1475 or 1476), which includes a depiction of the 16-year-old Lorenzo de’ Medici on the far left. Source: Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
A posthumous terracotta bust of Lorenzo de’ Medici, which was likely based on a 1478 wax sculpture by Andrea del Verrocchio and Orsino Benintendi. Date unknown. Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
Girolamo Machietti’s posthumous portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici. Date unknown. Source: Palazzo Pitti, Florence.
A portrait likely of Clarice Orsini by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1490s). Source: National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

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season two

Episode 20: Conspiracy or Countercoup?

Piero de’ Medici narrowly escaped death or abduction. But did everything happen as Piero and his son Lorenzo said? And just how will the Party of the Hill survive when they apparently bet everything on one scheme? 

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season two

Episode 19: Hill Versus Plain

Piero de’ Medici seems to be enjoying a smooth transition to power, but soon enough a rival political party takes shape on the high ground just across the river from the Palazzo de’ Medici. When legal measures fail to dislodge the Medici, the so-called “Party of the Hill” proves itself more than willing to resort to more drastic measures. Meanwhile we get a better look at Piero, the math professor of the Renaissance, and his wife Lucrezia, wife/mother/patron/businesswoman/writer.

The Palazzo Pitti, which was built by banker-politician Luca Pitti to rival the Palazzo de’ Medici which lied just across the River Arno. Since the palace sat on high ground, it inspired the name given to Luca’s anti-Medici political party, the Party of the Hill. Today, it houses the largest museum complex in Florence. Source: Ed Webster.
A portrait of Luca Pitti, date and painter unknown. Source: Kursk State Art Gallery, Kursk Oblast, Russian Federation.
A portrait of Lucrezia de’ Medici, née Tornabuoni, by Domenico Ghirlandaio (c. 1475). Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
A bust of Piero de’ Medici at the Bargello in Florence. Source: Yair Haklai.

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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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