The Palazzo Medici and its Polyvalent Message: Cosimo de Medici Navigates the Shifting Meaning of Pride
Author(s)Thieryung, Lisa Morgan
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AbstractThis thesis investigates the Medicean ability to present divergent messages to different audiences through the manipulation of art and architecture of the Palazzo Medici. I examine several works of art commissioned and authored by the Medici. First, Donatello’s bronze David, located in the Medici Courtyard, is interpreted through the traditional Christian perspective as seen by the vicini, making the Medici appear pious, reverent, and religiously devout. This work is also interpreted from the amici point of view using ancient and contemporary authors to trace the development of ideas amongst the circle of Classically educated friends of the Medici. Second, Donatello’s bronze Judith and Holofernes, located in the adjacent Medici Garden, is examined in the same way to highlight the divergent message of humility juxtaposed with pride. This exercise shows the Medici had the ability to use one piece of art to set the stage for several different messages. Each type of visitor would view the same piece of art and come away with a different message specifically tailored to them, which allowed the family to increase support for their political faction and maintain their status as de facto rulers of Florence. The Medici family’s success is undisputed amongst scholars, but Cosimo’s use of the Augustan model and his use of the palace as propaganda is a subject that has been left scarcely examined. Much research has been conducted on the exterior due to what is extant, but how those in the Medici faction viewed it is non-existent. This work builds upon F.W. Kent’s position that Renaissance palace were built with several groups in mind. Through this examination of the Medici’s use of polyvalent messaging, a new understanding of the Medici emerges, which shows they were masters of propaganda and can explain why the Palazzo Medici became the model for palaces through Florence, the Italian Peninsula, and eventually greater Europe.