A vivid, dramatic, and authoritative account of perhaps the most influential family in Italian history: the Medici.
A dazzling history of the modest family that rose to become one of the most powerful in Europe, The Medici is a remarkably modern story of power, money, and ambition. Against the background of an age that saw the rebirth of ancient and classical learning Paul Strathern explores the intensely dramatic rise and fall of the Medici family in Florence, as well as the Italian Renaissance which they did so much to sponsor and encourage.
Strathern also follows the lives of many of the great Renaissance artists with whom the Medici had dealings, including Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello; as well as scientists like Galileo and Pico della Mirandola; and the fortunes of those members of the Medici family who achieved success away from Florence, including the two Medici popes and Catherine de' Médicis, who became Queen of France and played a major role in that country through three turbulent reigns.
In this absorbing follow-up to his beautiful Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonorola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City, Strathern chronicles the legendarily farsighted banking family, offering a cautionary tale of arrogant and greedy heirs who bankrupted themselves and their city, thus destroying a largely symbiotic relationship. Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance, with the clever and powerful de Medici family serving as its midwives through various acts of patronage and their elevation of artists such as Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo da Vinci, and Sandro Botticelli. Strathern opens with a thrilling account of an assassination attempt on Lorenzo the Magnificent, allowing this fast-paced vignette of skill, luck, and treachery to color the family's astonishing rise and fall. Many historians concentrate on the figures of Cosimo and Lorenzo; both are well rendered here, as are the viewpoints of Pope Leo X, the family's unlikely war hero, and his relative and successor, Clement VII, who wrestled with Henry VIII's "great matter." Most of Strathern's portrayals are sympathetic in their context, though odd suggestions occur, particularly the implication that strong female influences led to several Medici men being gay. Nevertheless, this gratifying and comprehensive family saga sheds light on both the internal workings of a remarkable family and on how a singular family irrevocably influenced Western civilization.