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The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance by…
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The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (2003)

by Paul Strathern

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When I started reading The Medici by Paul Strathern I did not realize how many of the Renaissance artists and luminaries were homosexual or bisexual. It is a curious peculiarity that this author seems to like focusing on. Every time we reach a new character or personage of prestige we find out that they had some kind of charge of sexual deviancy against them. Take Leonardo da Vinci for instance; he was accused of sodomy but was protected by the Medici family.

The Medici family was huge in Renaissance-era Florence Italy. They were bankers and moneylenders. Normally this would have set them up for damnation and eternal hellfire, but I think they found a supposed loophole. I would have to read it again. The family reached its zenith in Lorenzo the Magnificent, and after that was a drawn-out fall.

Other than that, we find out how the Medici were patrons of the fine arts. Now I don’t really know much about fine art or anything like that. I do know famous names, though that does not explain why they are famous. Take Michelangelo for example; I know he was more at home with sculpting but could also paint if the situation called for it. I mean, he did do that marvelous ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, right?

In any case, the book was enjoyable but I did not expect it to focus on what it did. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
I'm a fan of history books that take a premise or subject and like a big stew, toss in all kinds of contemporary context. You can learn a lot about Renaissance art, warfare, politics, religion, literature, just from reading this one book. ( )
  Sandydog1 | Apr 29, 2019 |
I've always been somewhat precocious. A nerd, if you will. What we call gammelklog in Danish. And there are quite a few contributing factors to this. At this stage, I've reached the point where a lot of people won't play Trivial Pursuit with me. Even my fiancée wouldn't indulge me without tricking me into playing the God-damn Disney edition! (My secret weakness - CURSE YOU!)


My personal belief is that my Dad carries a lot of the responsibility for my multi-faceted trove of trivial knowledge; because for several years he was the one who planned our family summer vacations. They often had Southern Europe as their final destination, but it wasn't your average, easy-going recreational sojourn. Oh no. This was hardcore, full-on Grand Tour for the modern era.
And seeing how he is quite fond of Andrea Palladio - and Renaissance art and architecture in general - it was only natural that we spent A LOT of time in Northern Italy (and Tuscany in particular).

So when I spotted this Medici biography at my trusty old D-A haunt, I pounced on it immediately. It took some time for me to get started on it, however, because I misplaced it.
Yep, again-again.
But once I got started with it, it was damn near glued to my hands. It is frankly enthralling. So many characters, plot threads, names and dates - all exquisitely researched and conveyed. Strathern doesn't pull any punches from the get-go - the reader is dropped straight in the middle of the Pazzi conspiracy, at the point where the assassins pounce on Lorenzo and Giuliano.

And from there, it's a roughshod ride through the colourful history of Tuscany's most (in)famous clan/dynasty. From the shrewd, discreet bankers/moguls Giovanni Di Bicci and Cosimo the Elder, past the iconic Lorenzo il Magnifico and the Medici Popes, all the way to the ignominious end with the grotesque glutton Gian Gastone.
And yet, this book is more than just a biography of this influential family. It's also a collection of biographies - of the people that fell into the sphere of the Medici. Botticelli, Da Vinci, Vasari, Galilei, Cellini, Poliziano, Macchiavelli - you get acquainted with all of them. On top of this, the tone and language is accesible, enjoyable and fluent throughout.

One of my few grievances with this tome is the fact that one of the colour plates fell out about halfway through. But, then again, it WAS a second-hand purchase.
This turned out to be one of my longest reviews to date, but this book really struck a chord with me. I genuinely loved it.
 ( )
  jakadk | Sep 9, 2018 |
The fact that this is a book about a fascinating dynasty keeps our interest going to the end but truth be told the author was running out of fuel by the time we got to Ferdinando. The real Medici power lay between Cosimo and Pope Clement VII. What amazing men! So human, so fallible and yet with a touch of brilliance that lifted them (and Europe) from the mediaeval world view into the Renaissance. Men, who not artists themselves, funded the geniuses of that golden era, the well spring of the Renaissance - Enlightenment – Industrial Revolution – splitting the atom – cyberspace? The author wisely diverts from the somewhat limiting contributions of the family itself to dwell in loving detail on the masters and their mastery. He brought me to a new appreciation of, for example, Donatello’s David and of the remarkable (for the era) tolerance, indeed embracing, of homosexuality.

So, all the men, men, men when the most influential and powerful of the Medici was a woman and to my mind this books stands or falls on its analysis and assessment of this most influential of queens. Catherine, deserving and recipient of full books in her own right, is the most fascinating of the Medici and I feel that the scant chapter she gets in this book will do little more than whet your appetite.

Finally, the book could have done with some tighter editorial input. If we were told once in the early chapters that Cosimo was a conservative banker we were told four times; my memory is quite good, especially when a point was made only a few pages back. The same point made repeatedly began to grate after a while and, unfortunately, this reoccurs with other themes throughout the book (though not with the same pernicious effect on my harmony. Pity ‘cos the point was pertinent.

But these are mere quibbles; this is a well written, enjoyable broad brush canvas of the, mainly, Medici men whose sexual preferences eventually saw the end of the line. ( )
1 vote liehtzu | Feb 20, 2012 |
Ecellent book ( )
  PeterBlack | Nov 26, 2011 |
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It is Sunday 26 April 1478 in Florence, and the church bells ring out from the towers above the rooftops of the city.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099522977, Paperback)

Vivid and dramatic, this is a dazzling history of the modest family which rose to become one
of the most powerful in Europe.

The Medici is a remarkably modern story of power, money and ambition. Against the background of an age which saw the rebirth of ancient and classical learning, Paul Strathern explores the intensely dramatic rise and fall of the Medici family in Florence, as well as the Italian Renaissance which they did so much to sponsor and encourage. Interwoven into the narrative are the lives of many of the great Renaissance artists with whom the Medici had dealings, including Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello, as well as scientists like Galileo and Pico della Mirandola, both of whom clashed with the religious authorities.

In his enthralling study, Strathern also follows the fortunes of those members of the Medici family who achieved success away from Florence, including the two Medici popes and Catherine de Medici, who became Queen of France and played a major role in that country through three turbulent reigns.

Vivid and accessible, the book ends with the gloriously decadent decline of the Medici family in Florence as they strove to be recognized as European princes.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:14 -0400)

"Against the background of an age which saw the rebirth of ancient and classical learning - of humanism which penetrated and explored the arts and sciences, and the 'dark' knowledge of alchemy, astrology and numerology - Paul Strathern explores the intensely dramatic rise and fall of the Medici family in Florence, as well as the Italian Renaissance which they did so much to sponsor and encourage." "Interwoven into the narrative are the lives of many of the great Renaissance artists with whom the Medici had dealings, including Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello, as well as scientists like Galileo and Pico della Mirandola, both of whom clashed with the religious authorities." "In this study, Paul Strathern also follows the fortunes of those members of the Medici family who achieved success away from Florence, including the two Medici popes and Catherine de Medicis who became Queen of France and played a major role in that country through three turbulent reigns. Vivid and accessible, the book ends with the gloriously decadent decline of the Medici family in Florence as they strove to be recognised as European princes."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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