Some of the greatest portraits of Western art were painted in Florence during the tumultuous years from 1512 to 1570, when the city was transformed from a republic with elected officials into a duchy ruled by the Medici family. The key figure in this transformation was Cosimo I de’ Medici, who became Duke of Florence in 1537, following the assassination of his predecessor, Alessandro de’ Medici. Cosimo shrewdly employed culture as a political tool in order to convert the mercantile city into the capital of a dynastic Medicean state, enlisting the leading intellectuals and artists of his time and promoting grand architectural, engineering, and artistic projects. Through Giorgio Vasari's famous written work Lives of the Artists, which was dedicated to the duke, Florence was promoted as the cradle of the Renaissance.
Through an outstanding group of portraits, this major loan exhibition will introduce visitors to the various new and complex ways that artists portrayed the elite of Medicean Florence, representing the sitters’ political and cultural ambitions and conveying the changing sense of what it meant to be a Florentine at this defining moment in the city’s history. The exhibition will feature over 90 works in a wide range of mediums, from paintings, sculptural busts, medals, and carved gemstones to drawings, etchings, manuscripts, and armor. Included are works by the period’s most celebrated artists, from Raphael, Jacopo Pontormo, and Rosso Fiorentino to Benvenuto Cellini, Agnolo Bronzino, and Francesco Salviati.
Accompanied by a catalogue.
Virtual Group Tours available by request.
“The sweep of Italian history and art history in dazzling portraits from the [Medici] dynasty’s final hurrah, on view in a sumptuous exhibition at the Met.” —The New York Times
“An absorbing new exhibition” —Washington Post
“A spectacular exhibition... Organized around fabulous loans from far-flung lenders and a deeply intellectual premise, ‘Medici Portraits’ would be a feat in any climate. In a pandemic, it’s a triumph.” —Wall Street Journal
“The Medici offers a stimulating balance of spectacular art and behind-the-scenes machination that played equal parts in defining one of the most famous periods in history.” —Forbes
Lead corporate sponsorship is provided by Bank of America.
Major support is provided by David S. Winter.
Additional funding is provided by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Alice Cary Brown and W.L. Lyons Brown, the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, Laura and John Arnold, the Diane Carol Brandt Fund, the Hata International Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. J. Tomilson Hill, Denise and Andrew Saul, and The International Council of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
The catalogue is made possible by the Drue E. Heinz Fund.
Additional support is provided by Jon and Barbara Landau, Trinity Fine Art, Filippo Benappi, the Colnaghi Foundation, Marco Voena, the Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
Welcome to a world of power struggles and political intrigue: Renaissance Italy. Before you visit the exhibition, get a first look at how a teenager in Florence leveraged art and personal connections to elevate the Medici brand. Check out the Medici Portraits Primer.
If you think influencer culture is a twenty-first-century invention, listen to this podcast about Cosimo I de’ Medici. Only a teenager when he became duke, he leveraged art and his community to reinvent the Medici name in his rise to power in sixteenth-century Florence.
Commentary by Alessandro Lai, costume designer for the Netflix series Medici; Jenny Tiramani, head of the School of Historical Dress; contemporary portraitist Bisa Butler; and Renaissance scholars Linda Wolk-Simon and Victoria Kirkham. Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini.
Listen to the Audio Guide here.
Bronzino (Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano) (Italian, Monticelli 1503–1572 Florence). Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s. Oil on wood, 37 5/8 x 29 1/2 in. (95.6 x 74.9 cm). H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.16)