The Medici were in many ways an unattractive family. Ruthless in pursuit of profit for their Florentine bank, greedy for success, merciless to those who opposed their ambition and vicious in their own internal squabbles. And yet without them we wouldn’t have Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, the Fra Angelico frescoes in San Marco, Donatellos “David” or the majestic Michelangelo sculptures in the Medici chapel. The Platonic Academy wouldn’t have been founded and the doors for the Baptistry would never have been cast.
This Study Day, composed of three talks, looks into the turbulent history of this extraordinary family.
Lecture 1: Bankrolling the Renaissance.
Under the guidance of Cosimo Medici, the family became the unofficial rulers of Florence and leading patrons of the arts. This inevitably aroused fierce jealousies, which boiled over in the attempted assassination of Cosimo’s grandson Lorenzo.
Lecture 2: Popes and Patrons.
With Florence gripped by the apocalyptic preaching of Savonarola, the Medici were exiled from Florence. But they re-emerged triumphantly as Popes in Rome. Here their decadent and eccentric rule led to the Sack of Rome and ultimately opened the door to Luther’s Reformation of the Church.
Lecture 3: From Riches to Royalty.
Although the Medici were a spent force in Italy, an ingenious marriage had put Catherine de Medici on the throne of France, to be followed, shortly afterwards, by Marie de Medici. This last talk looks at the impact these two formidable queens had on the shape of French history.
For this day we are delighted to welcome back the ever-popular Douglas Skeggs. Douglas read Fine Art at Magdalene College Cambridge and has been a lecturer on paintings since 1980. In that time he has given over 8000 lectures to universities, colleges and art societies. He was the director of The New Academy of Art Studies for three years and is presently a regular lecturer at The Study Center, Christie’s course ‘The History of Art Studies’ and other London courses. Among his more improbable venues for lectures are the bar on the QE2, MI5 headquarters, the Captain’s Room at Lloyds, and an aircraft hanger in a German NATO base. Overseas he has lectured in Belgium, France, Germany and Spain, and has taken numerous tours around Europe.
He has written and presented various TV documentaries, notably the Omnibus programme on Whistler and the exhibition video on William Morris. Three one-man exhibitions of his paintings have been held in England and Switzerland. He has published five novels, which have been translated into 8 foreign languages, and his book on Monet, River of Light, has sold 30,000 copies in England, America and France.