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is Gozzoli's own. Among the throng are men of learning who either
came to Florence from the East or Florentines who assimilated their
philosophy - such as Georgius Gemisthos, Marsilio Ficino, and perhaps
certain painters among them, all protégés of Cosimo and Piero, and
all makers of the Renaissance.

The assemblage alone, apart altogether from any beauty and charm
that the painting possesses, makes these frescoes valuable. But the
painting is a delight. We have a pretty Gozzoli in our National
Gallery - No. 283 - but it gives no indication of the ripeness and
richness and incident of this work; while the famous Biblical
series in the Campo Santo of Pisa has so largely perished as to be
scarcely evidence to his colour. The first impression made by the
Medici frescoes is their sumptuousness. When Gozzoli painted - if the
story be true - he had only candle light: the window over the altar
is new. But think of candle light being all the illumination of these
walls as the painter worked! A new door and window have also been cut
in the wall opposite the altar close to the three daughters of Piero,
by vandal hands; and "Bruta, bruta!" says the guardian, very rightly.

The landscape behind the procession is hardly less interesting than the
procession itself; but it is when we come to the meadows of paradise,
with the angels and roses, the cypresses and birds, in the two chancel
scenes, that this side of Gozzoli's art is most fascinating. He has
travelled a long way from his master Fra Angelico here: the heaven
is of the visible rather than the invisible eye; sense is present
as well as the rapturous spirit. The little Medici who endured the
tedium of the services here are to be felicitated with upon such an
adorable presentment of glory. With plenty of altar candles the sight
of these gardens of the blest must have beguiled many a mass. Thinking
here in England upon the Medici chapel, I find that the impression
it has left upon me is chiefly cypresses - cypresses black and comely,
disposed by a master hand, with a glint of gold among them.

The picture that was over the altar has gone. It was a Lippo Lippi
and is now in Berlin.

The first of the Medici family to rise to the highest power was
Giovanni d'Averardo de' Medici (known as Giovanni di Bicci), 1360-1429,
who, a wealthy banker living in what is now the Piazza del Duomo,
was well known for his philanthropy and interest in the welfare of
the Florentines, but does not come much into public notice until
1401, when he was appointed one of the judges in the Baptistery door
competition. He was a retiring, watchful man. Whether he was personally
ambitious is not too evident, but he was opposed to tyranny and was the
steady foe of the Albizzi faction, who at that time were endeavouring
to obtain supreme power in Florentine affairs. In 1419 Giovanni
increased his popularity by founding the Spedale degli Innocenti,
and in 1421 he was elected gonfalonier, or, as we might now say,
President of the Republic. In this capacity he made his position
secure and reduced the nobles (chief of whom was Niccolò da Uzzano)
to political weakness. Giovanni died in 1429, leaving one son, Cosimo,
aged forty, a second, Lorenzo, aged thirtyfour, a fragrant memory
and an immense fortune.

To Lorenzo, who remained a private citizen, we shall return in time;
it is Cosimo (1389-1464) with whom we are now concerned. Cosimo de'
Medici was a man of great mental and practical ability: he had been
educated as well as possible; he had a passion both for art and
letters; he inherited his father's financial ability and generosity,
while he added to these gifts a certain genius for the management
of men. One of the first things that Cosimo did after his father's
death was to begin the palace where we now are, rejecting a plan by
Brunelleschi as too splendid, and choosing instead one by Michelozzo,
the partner of Donatello, two artists who remained his personal
friends through life. Cosimo selected this site, in what was then
the Via Larga but is now the Via Cavour, partly because his father
had once lived there, and partly because it was close to S. Lorenzo,
which his father, with six other families, had begun to rebuild,
a work he intended himself to carry on.

The palace was begun in 1430 abd was still in progress in 1433 when
the Albizzi, who had always viewed the rise of the Medici family
with apprehension and misgiving, and were now strengthened by the
death of Niccolò da Uzzano, who, though powerful, had been a very
cautious and temperate adviser, succeeded in getting a majority
in the Signoria and passing a sentence of banishment on the whole
Medici tribe as being too rich and ambitious to be good citizens of
a simple and frugal Republic. Cosimo therefore, after some days of
imprisonment in the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, during which he
expected execution at any moment, left Florence for Venice, taking
his architect with him. In 1434, however, the Florentines, realizing
that under the Albizzi they were losing their independence, and what
was to be a democracy was become an oligarchy, revolted, and Cosimo
was recalled, and, like his father, was elected gonfalonier. With this
recall began his long supremacy; for he returned like a king and like
a king remained, quickly establishing himself as the leading man in
the city, the power behind the Signoria. Not only did he never lose
that position, but he made it so naturally his own that when he died
he was able to transmit it to his son.

Cosimo de' Medici was, I think, the wisest and best ruler that Florence
ever had and ranks high among the rulers that any state ever had. But
he changed the Florentines from an independent people to a dependent
one. In his capacity of Father of his Country he saw to it that his
children lost their proud spirit. He had to be absolute; and this
end he achieved in many ways, but chiefly by his wealth, which made
it possible to break the rich rebel and to enslave the poor. His
greatest asset - next his wealth - was his knowledge of the Florentine
character. To know anything of this capricious, fickle, turbulent
folk even after the event was in itself a task of such magnitude that
almost no one else had compassed it; but Cosimo did more, he knew what
they were likely to do. By this knowledge, together with his riches,
his craft, his tact, his business ramifications as an international
banker, his open-handedness and air of personal simplicity, Cosimo
made himself a power. For Florence could he not
do enough. By inviting the Pope and the Greek Emperor to meet there
he gave it great political importance, and incidentally brought
about the New Learning. He established the Platonic Academy and
formed the first public library in the west. He rebuilt and endowed
the monastery of S. Marco. He built and rebuilt other churches. He
gave Donatello a free hand in sculpture and Fra Lippo Lippi and Fra
Angelico in painting. He distributed altogether in charity and churches
four hundred thousand of those golden coins which were invented by
Florence and named florins after her - a sum equal to a million pounds
of to-day. In every direction one comes upon traces of his generosity
and thoroughness. After his death it was decided that as Pater Patriae,
or Father of his Country, he should be for ever known.

Cosimo died in 1464, leaving an invalid son, Piero, aged forty-eight,
known for his almost continuous gout as Il Gottoso. Giovanni and Cosimo
had had to work for their power; Piero stepped naturally into it,
although almost immediately he had to deal with a plot - the first for
thirty years - to ruin the Medici prestige, the leader of which was that
Luca Pitti who began the Pitti palace in order to have a better house
than the Medici. The plot failed, not a little owing to young Lorenzo
de' Medici's address, and the remaining few years of Piero's life were
tranquil. He was a quiet, kindly man with the traditional family love
of the arts, and it was for him that Gozzoli worked. He died in 1469,
leaving two sons, Lorenzo (1449-1492) and Giuliano (1453-1478).

Lorenzo had been brought up as the future leading citizen of Florence:
he had every advantage of education and environment, and was rich in
the aristocratic spirit which often blossoms most richly in the second
or third generation of wealthy business families. Giovanni had been
a banker before everything, Cosimo an administrator, Piero a faithful
inheritor of his father's wishes; it was left for Lorenzo to be the
first poet and natural prince of the Medici blood. Lorenzo continued
to bank but mismanaged the work and lost heavily; while his poetical
tendencies no doubt distracted his attention generally from affairs.
Yet such was his sympathetic understanding and his native splendour and
gift of leadership that he could not but be at the head of everything,
the first to be consulted and ingratiated. Not only was he the first
Medici poet but the first of the family to marry not for love but
for policy, and that too was a sign of decadence.

Lorenzo came into power when only twenty, and at the age of forty-two
he was dead, but in the interval, by his interest in every kind of
intellectual and artistic activity, by his passion for the greatness
and glory of Florence, he made for himself a name that must always
connote liberality, splendour, and enlightenment. But it is beyond
question that under Lorenzo the Florentines changed deeply and for
the worse. The old thrift and simplicity gave way to extravagance and
ostentation; the old faith gave way too, but that was not wholly the
effect of Lorenzo's natural inclination towards Platonic philosophy,
fostered by his tutor Marsilio Ficino and his friends Poliziano and
Pico della Mirandola, but was due in no small measure also to the
hostility of Pope Sixtus, which culminated in the Pazzi Conspiracy of
1478 and the murder of Giuliano. Looking at the history of Florence
from our present vantage-point we can see that although under
Lorenzo the Magnificent she was the centre of the world's culture
and distinction, there was behind this dazzling front no seriousness
of purpose. She was in short enjoying the fruits of her labours as
though the time of rest had come; and this when strenuousness was more
than ever important. Lorenzo carried on every good work of his father
and grandfather (he spent £65,000 a year in books alone) and was as
jealous of Florentine interests; but he was also "The Magnificent,"
and in that lay the peril. Florence could do with wealth and power,
but magnificence went to her head.

Lorenzo died in 1492, leaving three sons, of whom the eldest, Piero
(1471-1503), succeeded him. Never was such a decadence. In a moment
the Medici prestige, which had been steadily growing under Cosimo,
Piero, and Lorenzo until it was world famous, crumbled to dust. Piero
was a coarse-minded, pleasure-loving youth - "The Headstrong" his
father had called him - whose one idea of power was to be sensual and
tyrannical; and the enemies of Florence and of Italy took advantage
of this fact. Savonarola's sermons had paved the way from within
too. In 1494 Charles VIII of France marched into Italy; Piero pulled
himself together and visited the king to make terms for Florence,
but made such terms that on returning to the city he found an order
of banishment and obeyed it. On November 9th, 1494, he and his family
were expelled, and the mob, forgetting so quickly all that they owed
to the Medici who had gone before, rushed to this beautiful palace and
looted it. The losses that art and learning sustained in a few hours
can never be estimated. A certain number of treasures were subsequently
collected again, such as Donatello's David and Verrocchio's David,
while Donatello's Judith was removed to the Palazzo Vecchio, where
an inscription was placed upon it saying that her short way with
Holofernes was a warning to all traitors; but priceless pictures,
sculpture, and MSS. were ruthlessly demolished.

In the chapter on S. Marco we shall read of what experiments in
government the Florentines substituted for that of the Medici,
Savonarola for a while being at the head of the government, although
only for a brief period which ended amid an orgy of lawlessness; and
then, after a restless period of eighteen years, in which Florence
had every claw cut and was weakened also by dissension, the Medici
returned - the change being the work of Lorenzo's second son, Giovanni
de' Medici, who on the eve of becoming Pope Leo X procured their
reinstatement, thus justifying the wisdom of his father in placing
him in the Church. Piero having been drowned long since, his admirable
but ill-starred brother Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, now thirty-three,
assumed the control, always under Leo X; while their cousin, Giulio,
also a Churchman, and the natural son of the murdered Giuliano,
was busy, behind the scenes, with the family fortunes.

Giuliano lived only till 1516 and was succeeded by his nephew
Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, a son of Peiro, a young man of no more
political use than his father, and one who quickly became almost
equally unpopular. Things indeed were going so badly that Leo X sent
Giulio de' Medici (now a cardinal) from Rome to straighten them out,
and by some sensible repeals he succeeded in allaying a little of
the bitterness in the city. Lorenzo had one daughter, born in this
palace, who was destined to make history - Catherine de' Medici - and
no son. When therefore he died in 1519, at the age of twenty-seven,
after a life of vicious selfishness (which, however, was no bar
to his having the noblest tomb in the world, at S. Lorenzo), the
succession should have passed to the other branch of the Medici
family, the descendants of old Giovanni's second son Lorenzo,
brother of Cosimo. But Giulio, at Rome, always at the ear of the
indolent, pleasure-loving Leo X, had other projects. Born in 1478,
the illegitimate son of a charming father, Giulio had none of the
great Medici traditions, and the Medici name never stood so low as
during his period of power. Himself illegitimate, he was the father
of an illegitimate son, Alessandro, for whose advancement he toiled
much as Alexander VI had toiled for that of Caesar Borgia. He had not
the black, bold wickedness of Alexander VI, but as Pope Clement VII,
which he became in 1523, he was little less admirable. He was cunning,
ambitious, and tyrannical, and during his pontificate he contrived not
only to make many powerful enemies and to see both Rome and Florence
under siege, but to lose England for the Church.

We move, however, too fast. The year is 1519 and Lorenzo is dead,
and the rightful heir to the Medici wealth and power was to be
kept out. To do this Giulio himself moved to Florence and settled
in the Medici palace, and on his return to Rome Cardinal Passerini
was installed in the Medici palace in his stead, nominally as the
custodian of little Catherine de' Medici and Ippolito, a boy of ten,
the illegitimate son of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours. That Florence
should have put up with this Roman control shows us how enfeebled
was her once proud spirit. In 1521 Leo X died, to be succeeded, in
spite of all Giulio's efforts, by Adrian of Utrecht, as Adrian VI,
a good, sincere man who, had he lived, might have enormously changed
the course not only of Italian but of English history. He survived,
however, for less than two years, and then came Giulio's chance,
and he was elected Pope Clement VII.

Clement's first duty was to make Florence secure, and he therefore
sent his son Alessandro, then about thirteen, to join the others
at the Medici palace, which thus now contained a resident cardinal,
watchful of Medici interests; a legitimate daughter of Lorenzo, Duke
of Urbino (but owing to quarrels she was removed to a convent); an
illegitimate son of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, the nominal heir and
already a member of the Government; and the Pope's illegitimate son,
of whose origin, however, nothing was said, although it was implied
that Lorenzo, Duke of Nemours, was his father.

This was the state of affairs during Clement's war with the Emperor
Charles V, [2] which ended with the siege of Rome and the imprisonment
of the Pope in the Castle of S. Angelo for some months until he
contrived to escape to Orvieto; and meanwhile Florence, realizing his
powerlessness, uttered a decree again banishing the Medici family, and
in 1527 they were sent forth from the city for the third time. But even
now, when the move was so safe, Florence lacked courage to carry it
out until a member of the Medici family, furious at the presence of the
base-born Medici in the palace, and a professed hater of her base-born
uncle Clement VII and all his ways - Clarice Strozzi, née Clarice de'
Medici, granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent - came herself to this
house and drove the usurpers from it with her extremely capable tongue.

To explain clearly the position of the Florentine Republic at this
time would be too deeply to delve into history, but it may briefly be
said that by means of humiliating surrenders and much crafty diplomacy,
Clement VII was able to bring about in 1529 peace between the Emperor
Charles V and Francis I of France, by which Charles was left master
of Italy, while his partner and ally in these transactions, Clement,
expected for his own share certain benefits in which the humiliation
of Florence and the exaltation of Alessandro came first. Florence,
having taken sides with Francis, found herself in any case very badly
left, with the result that at the end of 1529 Charles V's army, with
the papal forces to assist, laid siege to her. The siege lasted for
ten months, in which the city was most ably defended by Ferrucci,
that gallant soldier whose portrait by Piero di Cosimo is in our
National Gallery - No. 895 - and then came a decisive battle in which
the Emperor and Pope were conquerors, a thousand brave Florentines
were put to death and others were imprisoned.

Alessandro de' Medici arrived at the Medici palace in 1531, and
in 1532 the glorious Florentine Republic of so many years' growth,
for the establishment of which so much good blood had been spilt, was
declared to be at an end. Alessandro being proclaimed Duke, his first
act was to order the demolition of the great bell of the Signoria which
had so often called the citizens to arms or meetings of independence.

Meanwhile Ippolito, the natural son of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, and
therefore the rightful heir, after having been sent on various missions
by Clement VII, to keep him out of the way, settled at Bologna and took
to poetry. He was a kindly, melancholy man with a deep sense of human
injustice; and in 1535, when, after Clement VII's very welcome demise,
the Florentine exiles who either had been banished from Florence by
Alessandro or had left of their own volition rather than live in the
city under such a contemptible ruler, sent an embassy to the Emperor
Charles V to help them against this new tyrant, Ippolito headed it;
but Alessandro prudently arranged for his assassination en route.

It is unlikely, however, that the Emperor would have done anything,
for in the following year he allowed his daughter Margaret to become
Alessandro's wife. That was in 1536. In January, 1537, Lorenzino de'
Medici, a cousin, one of the younger branch of the family, assuming
the mantle of Brutus, or liberator, stabbed Alessandro to death while
he was keeping an assignation in the house that then adjoined this
palace. Thus died, at the age of twenty-six, one of the most worthless
of men, and, although illegitimate, the last of the direct line of
Cosimo de' Medici, the Father of his Country, to govern Florence.

The next ruler came from the younger branch, to which we now turn. Old
Giovanni di Bicci had two sons, Cosimo and Lorenzo. Lorenzo's son, Pier
Francesco de' Medici, had a son Giovanni de' Medici. This Giovanni,
who married Caterina Sforza of Milan, had also a son named Giovanni,
born in 1498, and it was he who was the rightful heir when Lorenzo,
Duke of Urbino, died in 1519. He was connected with both sides of
the family, for his father, as I have said, was the great grandson
of the first Medici on our list, and his wife was Maria Salviati,
daughter of Lucrezia de' Medici - herself a daughter of Lorenzo the
Magnificent - and Jacopo Salviati, a wealthy Florentine. When, however,
Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, died in 1519, Giovanni was a young man of
twenty-one with an absorbing passion for fighting, which Clement VII
(then Giulio) was only too keen to foster, since he wished him out of
the way in order that his own projects for the ultimate advancement
of the base-born Alessandro, and meanwhile of the catspaw, the
base-born Ippolito, might be furthered. Giovanni had already done
some good service in the field, was becoming famous as the head of
his company of Black Bands, and was known as Giovanni delle Bande
Nere; and his marriage to his cousin Maria Salviati and the birth
of his only son Cosimo in 1519 made no difference to his delight
in warfare. He was happy only when in the field of battle, and the
struggle between Francis and Charles gave him ample opportunities,
fighting on the side of Charles and the Pope and doing many brave and
dashing things. He died at an early age, only twenty-eight, in 1526,
the idol of his men, leaving a widow and child in poverty.

Almost immediately afterwards came the third banishment of the Medici
family from Florence. Giovanni's widow and their son Cosimo got
along as best they could until the murder of Alessandro in 1537,
when Cosimo was nearly eighteen. He was a quiet, reserved youth,
who had apparently taken but little interest in public affairs, and
had spent his time in the country with his mother, chiefly in field
sports. But no sooner was Alessandro dead, and his slayer Lorenzino
had escaped, than Cosimo approached the Florentine council and claimed
to be appointed to his rightful place as head of the State, and this
claim he put, or suggested, with so much humility that his wish was
granted. Instantly one of the most remarkable transitions in history
occurred: the youth grew up almost in a day and at once began to exert
unsuspected reserves of power and authority. In despair a number of
the chief Florentines made an effort to depose him, and a battle was
fought at Montemurlo, a few miles from Florence, between Cosimo's
troops, fortified by some French allies, and the insurgents. That
was in 1537; the victory fell to Cosimo; and his long and remarkable
reign began with the imprisonment and execution of the chief rebels.

Although Cosimo made so bloody a beginning he was the first imaginative
and thoughtful administrator that Florence had had since Lorenzo the
Magnificent. He set himself grimly to build upon the ruins which the
past forty and more years had produced; and by the end of his reign he
had worked wonders. As first he lived in the Medici palace, but after
marrying a wealthy wife, Eleanora of Toledo, he transferred his home
to the Signoria, now called the Palazzo Vecchio, as a safer spot, and
established a bodyguard of Swiss lancers in Orcagna's loggia, close
by. [3] Later he bought the unfinished Pitti palace with his wife's
money, finished it, and moved there. Meanwhile he was strengthening
his position in every way by alliances and treaties, and also by the
convenient murder of Lorenzino, the Brutus who had rid Florence of
Alessandro ten years earlier, and whose presence in the flesh could
not but be a cause of anxiety since Lorenzino derived from an elder
son of the Medici, and Cosimo from a younger. In 1555 the ancient
republic of Siena fell to Cosimo's troops after a cruel and barbarous
siege and was thereafter merged in Tuscany, and in 1570 Cosimo assumed
the title of Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and was crowned at Rome.

Whether or not the common accusation against the Medici as a
family, that they had but one motive - mercenary ambition and
self-aggrandisement - is true, the fact remains that the crown did
not reach their brows until one hundred and seventy years from the
first appearance of old Giovanni di Bicci in Florentine affairs. The
statue of Cosimo I in the Piazza della Signoria has a bas-relief of
his coronation. He was then fifty-one; he lived but four more years,
and when he died he left a dukedom flourishing in every way: rich,
powerful, busy, and enlightened. He had developed and encouraged
the arts, capriciously, as Cellini's "Autobiography" tells us, but
genuinely too, as we can see at the Uffizi and the Pitti. The arts,
however, were not what they had been, for the great period had passed



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