The Medici and Gozzoli's Magi

Malcolm Oxley on how the Christmas story was co-opted into politics and social aspirations in Renaissance Florence.

The Journey of the Magi to Bethlehem, from the east wall of the Chapel of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence, by Benozzo di Lese di Sandro Gozzoli, c.1459 © Bridgeman Images

The modern visitor to Florence rightly seeks out the Medici town palace on the Via Cavour. A major attraction of the visit is the family chapel on the first floor whose walls are adorned with the frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli usually called 'The Procession of the Magi' executed in l459. Restored in 1992 to celebrate the quincentenary of the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-92), the pictures dazzle today's visitor as they must have impressed contemporaries by their glorious colours, dynamic, perspectival composition and superbly' detailed observation.

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