La Cappella dei Magi in Palazzo Medici Riccardi
The Renaissance palace, symbol of the economic power of the Medici family in Florence, was designed by Michelozzo di Bartolommeo. String courses on the façade separated the three stories, overlooking Via Larga (now Via Cavour). Cosimo de' Medici chose Benozzo Gozzoli (c. 1421 - 1497) to decorate the chapel, and this commission brought the artist to Florence.
- July 1459 - Benozzo Gozzoli begines the decoratiion of La Cappella Dei Magi.
- 1468 - Piero il Gottoso "the Gouty" adds the area of two adjacent houses to the palace and establishes two service courtyards.
- 17 to 28 November 1494 - Charles VII of Valois, King of France stayed at the Palazzo while a peace pact was made with the Florentine Republic. The republican government acquired the property of Medici family. The David and Judith of Donatello were moved to the Palazzo de la Signoria.
- 1513 - Return of the Medici family.
- May 1527 - Cardinal Silvio Passerini da Cortona, who had been governing Florence since 1524 on the orders of Clement VII, left Palazzo Medici along with the scions of the house of Medici, his protegés the young Ippolito, illegitimate son of Giuliano Duke of Nemours, and Alessandro, illegitimate son of another member of the family (said to be Lorenzo Duke of Urbino, but possibly actually the Pope himself).
- January 1537 - Cosimo, the son of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, becomes Duke Cosimo I, and takes up residence in the Palazzo.
- 15 May 1540 - Feast of Pentecost. Procession of Cosimo I and his wife, Eleonora di Toledo, to mark the transfer of residence from the Via Larga residence to Palazzo della Signoria.
- 1659 - The Medici sold it to the Riccardi who extended the building northwards and partially renovated the interior.
- 1683 - Neapolitan artist Luca Giordano was commissioned to paint frescoes on the ceiling of the Ricccardian Library's Reading Room.
- 1689 - Transfer of collection of antiquities started by Riccardo Romulo Riccardi (1558-1612) to the Palazzo.
- 1874 - The Florentine Provincial Authority purchased the palazzo for the sum of lire 500,000.
Il Viaggio dei Magi
So as to please his patron, Benozzo Gozzoli chose to "embroider" the New Testament story of the three wise men, the Magi, upon the walls of La Cappella Dei Magi - with a wall for each of the kings - and the characters he chose to portray were friends and associates of the Medici family in procession through the hilly landscape:
- West wall
- Reading the fresco from the right hand wall nearest to the sanctuary and facing the entrance, with some part of the Medici family and household leading the way, with his pet leopard, and prominent on his horse is an as yet unidentified young boy in a blue costume.
- Emperor of the West - Melchior bearing frankincense. Behind the young boy rides an old man with a white beard and red tunic, squeezed into the corner by the staircase well, created in the 18th century transformation of the palazzo. This "wise man" (Melchior) is represented by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg.
- South wall
- Emperor of the East - Balthasar bearing myrrh. The Magi Balthasar is dressed in green, yellow and red. He has the face of the penultimate Eastern Emperor John VIII Palaeologus (1390-1448). It is thought that the face of his horse is modelled on a bronze horses head from antiquity then owned by Lorenzo and now in the Florence Archaeological Museum.
- East wall
- Lorenzo - Caspar bearing gold. Caspar, traditionally identified as an idealised version of Lorenzo il Magnifico, leads the procession riding a white horse.
- He is followed by Piero il Gottoso "the Gouty", and the Medici family founder, Cosimo il Vecchio, on a donkey.
- Then come Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (1417-1468) and Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444-1476), respectively lord of Rimini and Pavia and guests of the Medici in Florence.
- After them is a procession of illustrious Florentines, such as the humanists Marsilio Ficino and the Pulci brothers. This was the Medici's precious network of "friends of friends" amici degli amici.
- Just above Gozzoli in a red bonnet is the face of the Sienese Pope - Pius II (Piccolomini) - positioned in the back row of this Florentine financed and dominated power group. Cosimo, thought that the idea of a crusade for which the Pope from Siena was seeking funds was totally mad.