Cosimo de’ Medici and the Florentine Renaissance

The Patron’s Oeuvre

Dale Kent

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Cosimo de’ Medici (1389–1464), the fabulously wealthy banker who became the leading citizen of Florence in the fifteenth century, spent lavishly as the city’s most important patron of art and literature. This remarkable book is the first comprehensive examination of the whole body of works of art and architecture commissioned by Cosimo and his sons. By looking closely at this spectacular group of commissions, we gain an entirely new picture of their patron and of the patron’s point of view. Recurrent themes in the commissions—from Fra Angelico’s San Marco altarpiece to the Medici Palace—indicate the main interests to which Cosimo’s patronage gave visual expression. Dale Kent offers new insights and perspectives on the individual objects comprising the Medici oeuvre by setting them within the context of civic and popular culture in early Renaissance Florence, and of Cosimo’s life as the leader of the Medici lineage and the dominant force in the governing elite.

From the wealth of available documentation on Cosimo de’ Medici’s life, the author considers how Cosimo’s own experience influenced his patronage; how the culture of Renaissance Florence provided a common idiom for the patron, his artists, and his audience; what he preferred and intended as a patron; and how focusing on his patronage of art alters the image of him that is based on his roles as banker and politician. Cosimo was as much a product as a shaper of Florentine society, Kent concludes. She identifies civic patriotism and devotion as the main themes of his oeuvre and argues that religious imperatives may well have been more important than political ones in shaping the art for which he was responsible and its reception.

Dale Kent is professor of history at the University of California at Riverside.

“Kent’s splendid book is a stunningly innovative treatment of the patronage of art by Cosimo de’ Medici. She sets a new standard for studies of the Medici and indeed all cultural phenomena in Florence.”—Brenda Preyer








"[An] impressively organised—and beautifully produced—study. . . . Whether or not we choose to see it with the ironic eye of Machiavelli, the corpus of art works more or less associated with Cosimo is impressive; and Dale Kent’s book is, in its own right, an eloquent tribute to the man."—Gervase Rosser, Apollo Magazine

“[A] monumental study of the body of works of art and architecture commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici the Elder (1389–1464) and his sons. . . . This is a book of considerable merit: ambitious in the scope of its undertaking yet beautifully executed and accessible.”—Gabriele Neher, Art Book

“The most ambitious—and beautiful—book on Cosimo de’ Medici yet produced offers Renaissance scholarship a new term: ‘the patron’s oeuvre.’ Training her eye on the crafty and farsighted Cosimo, Kent, a well-known historian, provides for the first time an overview of the full range of his artistic commissions and attempts to penetrate the patron’s mentality. . . . Jam-packed with information, the book is certain to become a staple of early Renaissance scholarship.”—Choice

“This innovative and challenging study of the art patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici has great ambition and will attract attention and debate, especially from art historians, for many years.”—English Historical Review

“[This] is truly a readable book, illustrated richly in halftones and color, with pictures of art and architecture found in Florence, Fiesole, Cavaggi, and outside Italy. . . . A book that will serve the connoisseur as well as the biographer, and the lover of things Florentine as well as the social historian.”—Kathleen M. Comerford, History: Reviews of New Books

"Readers will no doubt find that the volume offers a treasure of information about a central figure and central moment in the Italian Renaissance."—David Marsh, Italian Quarterly

“A massive, learned, beautifully illustrated [book].”—Journal of Interdisciplinary History

. . . . [A]mbitious. . . . [T]he result of long and admirably meticulous research into a relatively short period.

"Kent’s ambitious book is the result of long and admirably meticulous research into a relatively short period."—Tim Parks, New York Review of Books

“This is a major book, providing an unparalleled resource for all students of Renaissance history and culture. . . . McGowan has done a wonderful job in assembling, sifting and interpreting the myriad instances of the vision of Rome, and in the process provided information and stimulus for necessary succeeding works of scholarship.”—Renaissance Journal

“[A] superbly illustrated book.”—Richard Cork, The Times

Winner of the 2001 Charles Rufus Morey Award sponsored by the College Art Association
ISBN: 9780300081282
Publication Date: November 10, 2000
552 pages, 8 1/4 x 10 3/4
148 b/w + 40 color illus.