How the Medicis Became Art History's First Influencers


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If you're a fan of Italian Renaissance art and you were in New York right now, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a treat for you. It's called The Medici: Portraits and Politics, 1520-1570 and it offers a spectacular sampling of ninety works of art from Florence's 16th century. But there's a twist. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that Italian Renaissance art was connected to the most powerful people in society.

Still, even today, if you call someone a Medici, you probably mean to say that they are a visionary patron of the arts when it could just as well mean that you are calling them a ruthless oligarch. This exhibition actually tries to show how some of the classics of art in this time were not just works of beauty, that the Medici happened to do on the side, but part of a carefully calibrated political PR campaign that deliberately shaped how the public sees this family in their time and up to our own.

Art historian. Eleanor Heartney wrote an essay for Artnet News, looking at The Met show and the world of the Medici, asking how the history behind the art changes how we look at what The Metropolitan Museum accurately advertises as some of the most famous European paintings of all time.

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