Rather than do this imperfectly I have chosen to do it not at all; and the curious must resort to historians proper. But there is at the end of the volume a table of the chief dates in Florentine and European history in the period chosen, together with births and deaths of artists and poets and other important persons, so that a bird’s-eye view of the progress of affairs can be quickly gained, while in this chapter I offer an outline of the great family of rulers of Florence who made the little city an aesthetic lawgiver to the world and with whom her later fame, good or ill, is indissolubly united. For the rest, is there not the library?
The Medici, once so powerful and stimulating, are still ever in the background of Florence as one wanders hither and thither. They are behind many of the best pictures and most of the best statues. Their escutcheon is everywhere. I ought, I believe, to have made them the subject of my first chapter. But since I did not, let us without further delay turn to the Via Cavour, which runs away to the north from the Baptistery, being a continuation of the Via de’ Martelli, and pause at the massive and dignified palace at the first corner on the left. For that is the Medici’s home; and afterwards we will step into S. Lorenzo and see the church which Brunelleschi and Donatello made beautiful and Michelangelo wonderful that the Medici might lie there.
Visitors go to the Riccardi palace rather to see Gozzoli’s frescoes than anything else; and indeed apart from the noble solid Renaissance architecture of Michelozzo there is not much else to see. In the courtyard are certain fragments of antique sculpture arranged against the walls, and a sarcophagus is shown in which an early member of the family, Guccio de’ Medici, who was gonfalonier in 1299, once reposed. There too are Donatello’s eight medallions, but they are not very interesting, being only enlarged copies of old medals and cameos and not notable for his own characteristics.