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Exhibitions/ The Medici: Portraits and Politics, 1512–1570

The Medici: Portraits and Politics, 1512–1570

At The Met Fifth Avenue
June 26–October 11, 2021

Exhibition Catalogue

Featuring more than ninety remarkable paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and medals, this volume is written by a team of leading international authors and presents a sweeping, penetrating exploration of a crucial and vibrant period in Italian art.

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Exhibition Overview

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.
Bank of America Logo

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.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in

The Primer

A looping GIF alludes to the experience of picking a font style for text appearing atop an image within Instagram Stories; the GIF cycles through three painted portraits with an overlaid title “The Medici: Portraits and Politics” above a carousel menu of round buttons of different font styles; as each portrait cycles in, the color gradient background behind the artwork image changes to correspond with the color scheme of the given painting and the title font changes to evoke the style of the painting

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.

Exhibition Audio Guide

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.

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Exhibition Objects

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)