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Video transcript

(gentle music) - [Steven] We're in Florence, looking at the Palazzo Medici. - [Beth] The Medici Palace and we're on a busy street in Florence. This is really in the heart of Florence. - [Steven] In fact, it's situated at a point where Cosimo had to buy the properties of some 22 land owners in order to be able to build, what is a magnificent and enormous palace. And it's a palace that has a view of the most important religious sites in the city. - [Beth] Del Duomo, the Cathedral of Florence. - [Steven] And the Baptistry, in fact, we have a direct view down the street to the Baptistry. - [Beth] The place where all the citizens of Florence were baptized. - [Steven] If we look the other direction we see San Marco, which was a monastery that the Medici family underwrote, they were the primary patrons. - [Beth] And we also see San Lorenzo, which is their parish church and which they also supported and endowed and had rebuilt and even had funerary chapels built there. - [Steven] Now in the 14th, and especially in the 15th century, the city of Florence had become extremely wealthy. Its wealth came largely from manufacturer and largely from the production of wool, but then increasingly banking became an important source of wealth. - [Beth] And there were several leading families in Florence, the Medici being the most prominent. - [Steven] Now the Medici family would be in, they would be out. There were times when the Medici family was exiled. There were times when the Medici family was ruling explicitly. There were other times when the Medici family was simply pulling all the strings behind the scenes. So I think now in the 21st century, it's easy for us to correlate somebody who has a lot of wealth, living in a splendid home. But in the 15th century ostentation had a price. - [Beth] It was morally and spiritually questionable. - [Steven] And so, just because you had a lot of money didn't mean that you should necessarily spend it on a grand edifice. - [Beth] And yet Cosimo did and the citizens of Florence were intended to understand this as a way of Cosimo of the Medici family ennobling Florence itself, contributing to the beautiful appearance of the city that they were so proud of in the early 15th century. - [Steven] And one of the ways that this building pulls that off, is by referencing the classical tradition. We can see these beautiful, elegant voussoir rounding the arcade that was originally open. We're calling this a private home, but in fact it was a much more public space than we might expect. Although this building is fortress-like, although it seems tremendously solid and protective, it was meant to be a place where the city could enter, where business could be conducted. - [Beth] And you used the word fortress-like and I think that's important because this building is looking back to a building a few blocks away, the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence which does look very much like a fortress which had been built a hundred years earlier. - [Steven] This palace refers to the Palazzo Vecchio in a very specific way and that is the rusticated masonry. On the ground floor of this building we see these huge blocks of stone that have not been polished, that have not been finely cut, that feel rough, that feel heavy, and the density of that material is so tangible. Look at the way that those stones are cut. Not only to refuse the sort of clarity of a flush surface but they're also cut irregularly so that there is no uniformity of size. - [Beth] So while the ground floor has a sense of being like a fortress, there's a clear recalling of classical antiquity of ancient Roman architecture and therefore a sense of Renaissance humanism that this building would have communicated. - [Steven] There are classical references everywhere. There's the voussoir over the Roman arches. There are Corinthian columns in the window bays and then just at the bottom of the cornice, there's egg-and-dart and dentil motifs, and then of course there's the cornice itself, which is this massive form that comes right out of the classical tradition and really stops our eye from moving past the building. And inside is a courtyard which comes directly out of the Roman tradition with a lovely Brunelleschian arcade. - [Beth] So all of this within the context of the incredible wealth of the Medici family, the political power of the Medici family, looking back to the classical tradition. - [Steven] And looking forward to a building boom in new palace architecture by wealthy Florentines, this building in a sense gave permission for the other great ruling families to build their own immense palaces. (upbeat music)