Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence


Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence
(beg. 1436)
   The most important commission Michelozzo received from Cosimo de' Medici was to build for him a family palace to be used as his principal residence in Florence. Cosimo was exiled in 1433 and returned to Florence in the following year, becoming the city's ruler for the next three decades. He was careful to hide any outward manifestations of his position of power and this is reflected in the simplicity of the design chosen for the Palazzo Medici. Giorgio Vasari wrote that Cosimo first asked Filippo Brunelleschi to provide a design, but he rejected it for being too intricate, remarking that envy is a plant that should not be nurtured. Brunelleschi destroyed the model he made and the commission instead went to his follower, Michelozzo.
   The building is three stories high, with an arcade in the lower level that was originally open but filled in the 16th century when the Riccardi purchased and extended the palace. The upper story is capped by a heavy cornice, giving the structure a sense of completion. The rustications on the façade, which diminish as the structure ascends, add a rugged appearance and grant the impression of a taller building. Michelozzo added a courtyard in the middle of the structure, based on Brunelleschi's façade of the Ospedale degli Innocenti (1419-1424). Here, round arches supported by Corinthian columns carry an entablature. Above, windows are strategically lined with the arches below. Unlike Brunelleschi's design, however, Michelozzo's placement of the corner windows is somewhat awkward as they are too close to one another, breaking the harmony of the design. There is also a lack of definition at the corners of the arcade, a problem that could have been solved had Michelozzo added heavy pilasters similar to those used by Brunelleschi at the ends of the loggia in his Ospedale degli Innocenti. In spite of these problems, Michelozzo's design became the prototype for Florentine palace design for the rest of the century.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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