Good morning, we are going to look at life in the Renaissance Court of Cosimo Medici. This document is part of the How to Get Ahead Series with historian Stephen Smith. The run time for this documentary is 59:18.
Stephen Smith explores Florence and the reign of Grand Duke Cosimo Medici. Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to the Medici Family. They were a family of bankers who turned into royals. They were the patrons of the arts and finer things of life. Artists and thinkers flourished in the Medici Court. Cosimo was a man interested in the finer things in life. He was a man who reigned during the same time as Henry VIII. He was the man who wrote the book on how to be a Renaissance Prince.
The Grand Duke Cosimo set to work to make Florence the Grandest City in Europe. When he became Grand Duke he threw a lavish party and it was his wedding party. He married Eleanora of Toledo. It was a love match and a good start to Cosimo’s reign. She was rich and a beauty. She was the original trophy wife. She was shown off throughout Florence and was heralded throughout the city. The part went on for days. This party showed up the splendor of the court. Florence had never seen a party like this in years.
So what do you do if you are a Renaissance monarch and you become a Grand Duke? Well, if you are Cosimo you just annex the town hall. Decorators and artists from the city descended onto the town hall to redecorate. The town hall used to be the center of the city, where all people were equal. This town hall would be the center of Cosimo’s court and he was the only voice that mattered. Every wall and ceiling proclaimed Cosimo and his characteristics.
The next thing Cosimo did was create royal regalia. One piece of artwork remains that shows the splendor of the Crown Jewels that he created. Cosimo had robes with diamonds and jewels. His ducal crown was a masterpiece. Stephen walks with a master goldsmith about the crown. The crown has been lost to history. At the time it would have symbolized his power and it was decorated with precious stones and pearls. It would have been heavy to wear. The cost would have been staggering.
Cosimo’s court was a place where artists could find support. Michelangelo, who was from Florence fled to Rome and Cosimo wanted to try to get him back. He wrote Michelangelo to persuade him to return to Florence. Would Michelangelo return to Florence? Cosimo also sought to have the perfect portrait taken of him. Stephen examines a neglected bronze in a forgotten corner of a museum. The problem with the bronze is that Cosimo hated it. The bronze was a little too lifelike, it showed Cosimo as a barbarian king. A barbarian king who could do anything he wanted. A portrait of Cosimo would have to demonstrate him as just and a great leader. He had to be a warrior with a heart.
The Prince also came out during this period. It was a primer on how to cheat and deceive your way to the top. It was a tough world, and ruthlessness would be part of Cosimo’s rule book. He fired all his generals and hired mercenaries. These mercenaries were loyal to Cosimo alone and they would protect him from assassination attempts. In fact, he had a secret walkway installed in the city, that way he could make his way through the city without being seen. So how does one get ahead in Cosimo’s court? Continue to watch this episode to find out.
This documentary was time-stamped, so if you want to show clips to a classroom, then you can easily find the clip you need. Additionally, this was a series I did not plan on featuring on the blog because I did not really care for the narrator or his style. However, in my search for Renaissance documentaries, this was an episode to pop up so I gave it a go. I would show clips from this episode, especially clips on Machiavelli. For the most part, this is a documentary to skip.
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