“I Medici – Masters of Florence” is the title of a new television series on Rai Uno (Italian TV). The protagonists of the series are Cosimo de’ Medici, played by Richard Madden and Giovanni de’ Medici played by Dustin Hoffman. The production was produced in English with an international cast, including many Italian film stars. It has also been dubbed in Italian and can be viewed in Italy on the Rai Uno station.
The eight-episode miniseries was filmed over the course of several months in Tuscany and Lazio, with sets in Florence in and around the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio and the Basilica of San Lorenzo. The story recounts the transformation of the Medici family from merchants and wool dyers to bankers and potent members of Florence’s governing counsel – La Signoria. The Medici family influenced not only politics but also art encouraging artists like Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli, da Vinci and Michelangelo. The family tree is also quite impressive and boasts of several cardinals, two Popes, two Queens of France and seven Grand Dukes of Tuscany.
Of course, with any mini-series adapted for TV liberties have been taken with historical fact. The story begins with the mysterious death of Giovanni, the great grandfather of Lorenzo de’ Medici – il Magnifico. No one knows the cause of Giovanni de’ Bici de Medici’s death, but it serves to add drama and mystery to the modern adaptation. His son Cosimo suspects enemies of the family, the Pazzi, and the Albizzi are involved in a plot to undermine the Medici. He begins an investigation to find out who the assassins are.
The story is told in an interesting way, frequently jumping between present and past events, when Giovanni, the father was still alive. In this way, we see a strong contrast between the character of Cosimo in his youth and as an adult and witness the evolution over time of how he becomes the sage businessman, ruler of his family and Florence.
Indeed, Cosimo starts out early in life rejecting the family business wanting to pursue a career as an artist. In Rome, he meets Donatello and becomes enamored with classical art and architecture. He dreams of completing the cupola over the Duomo in Florence himself. But, it is not to be his legacy. Instead, he is the one to finance the completion of the cathedral and the building of the cupola. He is the one who hires Brunelleschi, the genius architect who finds the solution of how to build the largest freestanding dome since antiquity.
I am enjoying this new film. The sets and costumes are delightful. It is fun to see new life brought to these important historical characters. I am particularly pleased that Filippo Brunelleschi is represented in this new drama, as he is also an important character in my new book Dreaming Sophia! The Florentines are also portrayed as dreamers. They had built an enormous cathedral hundreds of years before they had any idea how to top it off. But they sincerely believed that one day (even if it took 300 years!) someone would come along with the intelligence and technology to finish the job, and transform into reality the Florentine dream!
If you’d like to dive into Medici history and get to know Lorenzo de’ Medici’s grandfather and great grandfather, watching “I Medici – Masters of Florence” is a great start. Il Magnifico did indeed descend from some very powerful, intelligent and influential men!