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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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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.
The routes taken by the Black Death around the West. From D. Cesana, O.J. Benedictow, and R. Bianucci, The Origin and Early Spread of the Black Death in Italy from here.

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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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season one

Episode 5: Boom Town

A picture of the Mugello Valley in Tuscany. Source: Christian Lorenz

Sometime before the dawn of the fourteenth century, a family named the Medici moved from a small village in the Mugello Valley in the Apennines to the bustling city of Florence. Eventually, they became successful bankers and one member was elected to the republic’s top office. They also jumped right into the city’s latest violent class and factional civil war. 

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season zero

Episode 4: Republic of Guilds

With Florence free of foreign interference (for once), a medieval “class traitor” spearheaded reforms that severely weakened the nobility’s grip on the government and gave a lot of formal power to the city’s merchant and artisan guilds. In this episode, I delve into the nuts and bolts of how this guild regime operated. Also, I talk about whether or not we can talk about Florence as part of an “Italian nation”, even though a unified Italian nation state was still about 600 years from being born. 

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season zero

Episode 3: Gang War

Starting out as an ill-advised prank at a party, the feud between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines in Florence forever changed the city’s history. It would wrap Florence up in the struggle between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, eventually toppling the city’s aristocratic republic and creating something rather new in its place, the Primo Popolo.

A map of Italy around the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Source: Muir’s Historical Atlas via Fordham University’s Medieval History Sourcebook.
The Florentine Guelf flag, which became the official flag of the City of Florence.
The Bargello, formerly the Palazzo del Popolo. Source: VisitFlorence.com.

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