Art 440 Studies Medici Art and Architecture in Florence
“Medici Florence: Art, Patronage, Collecting,” taught by Lecturer Lia Markey, examined the artistic and cultural patronage of the Medici from the late 15th to the early 17th century. A trip to Florence during spring break offered the students in the class an opportunity to examine first-hand how the Medici family transformed painting, sculpture, architecture, and urban design in Renaissance Florence. The seminar trip was made possible by the Advisory Council Undergraduate Travel Fund.
On the first morning the students focused on early Medici patronage, beginning with the tabernacle for the miracle-working Madonna of Santissima Annunziata and the convent of San Marco with its Fra Angelico frescoes and paintings. Like the Medici themselves, the class processed down the former Via Larga to the Medici-Riccardi Palace to examine Benozzo Gozzoli’s Cappella dei Magi. In the afternoon students joined Medici scholar Edward Goldberg for a lively tour of the Palazzo Vecchio, where they were able to access Francesco de’ Medici’s studiolo, traverse some secret passageways, and scale the tower.
The following day began at the basilica of San Lorenzo, where Michelangelo expert Rab Hatfield of Syracuse University in Florence guided the group through the Medici complex. That afternoon at the Uffizi, students explored Vasari’s architecture and studied Medici paintings by Botticelli, Uccello, Bronzino, Caravaggio, and many others. The class then had the opportunity to walk through the Vasari corridor, a walkway designed to connect the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace for a Medici wedding.
On the final full day of the trip, the students studied Medici sculptural commissions by Donatello, Giambologna, Ammannati, and Cellini in the Bargello and considered them in relation to the works that remain in situ in various piazze they had seen. That afternoon, during a visit to the Archivio di Stato di Firenze, the students learned about the Medici Archive Project from Director Alessio Assonitis and were able to read and even handle 16th-century Medici letters and inventories. The evening was spent discussing style and Medici patronage at the exhibition Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino: Diverging Paths of Mannerism at the Palazzo Strozzi.
The students also took part in many non-Medici related activities: they hiked up to Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato al Monte, saw Castagno’s Last Supper, visited an art restoration lab, climbed to the top of the Duomo, visited the Brancacci chapel and numerous churches, paid homage to Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia, met with Syracuse University graduate students, and consumed their daily quota of gelato.