The Family Medici: The Hidden History of the Medici Dynasty

Mary Hollingsworth. Pegasus, $29.95 (480p) ISBN 978-1-68177-648-4
Unimpressed with the celebratory legend, British scholar Hollingsworth (The Borgias) builds on her previous work regarding the Italian Renaissance to show how the ambitious Medici family moved beyond their banking origins to acquire the power to essentially strangle burgeoning republicanism in Renaissance Florence. Each generation receives an unsentimental overview centering on its most prominent male member, showcasing the public achievements and transgressions that gave the family enormous power and wealth. Well-known figures such as Lorenzo the Magnificent and Duke Cosimo I appear in short, enjoyable chapters, but Hollingsworth strives for fairly equal representation, which benefits the later, lesser-known family members who rarely receive book-length treatments. Images of well-known period art, much of which resulted from Medici patronage or revealed a link to the family, adorn each chapter. The visuals provide a break from the never-ending machinations that Hollingsworth details, such as Cosimo’s manipulations of the electoral process and Lorenzo’s use of art “as a political tool.” She admirably handles political maneuvers elsewhere, especially in Central Europe. If there’s a flaw here, it’s a minor one—the odd decision to avoid discussing, beyond a mere mention, Henry VIII’s attempts to gain an annulment from Medici Pope Clement VII, which led to the English Reformation. Hollingsworth’s clear, concise family chronology serves as an excellent introduction or handy reference guide to one of the Renaissance’s most infamous families. Illus. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2018
Release date: 03/06/2018
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