The Medici: Portraits and Politics, 1512–1570

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Jun. 2021. 328p. ed. by Keith Christiansen & Carlo Falciani. ISBN 9781588397300. $65. FINE ARTS
This exhibition catalogue (accompanying a show of Renaissance portraits at New York’s Met Museum) introduces readers to the 16th-century Florence ruled by the Medici family. Two introductory essays offer historical and cultural context—these are scholarly and quite dense and would be most easily read by someone with existing knowledge of the Italian Renaissance. There are also shorter, more manageable essays on the exhibition’s themes (each of which introduces a section of color plates). Topics include the history, politics, and lineage of the Medici rulers; the era’s debate over the use of vernacular Italian vs. Latin; the writing of Dante and Petrarch and its relation to Renaissance painting and culture; and a comparison of the artists Agnolo Bronzino and Francesco Salviati. The most readable texts in the book are the illustrated catalogue entries for each object in the exhibition (including oil paintings, drawings, sculptures, pages from books, and medallions); each entry discusses specifics of iconography, dress, and artistic style in relation to the objects.
VERDICT Recommended for readers who already have some knowledge of the Italian Renaissance and want to learn more.
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