Gozzoli’s beautiful fresco was commissioned by Cosimo I for a private family chapel at the Palazzo Medici in central Florence. The landscape is recognizable as the hills that surround Florence, and includes castles and villas owned by the Medici (Bargellini, 18). The lavishly painted scene captures the biblical journey of the magi, but depicts a number of people contemporary to Renaissance Florence. Upon the white horse at left rides Piero the Gouty, followed by his father Cosimo on a donkey. Piero’s sons Giuliano and Lorenzo are visible in the group to the left, beneath the self portrait of the artist, identifiable by the Latin signature Opus Benotii (“the work of Benozzo”) on his hat (Hartt, 349). Lorenzo the Magnificent is idealized in the visage of the King, astride the white horse at the right. Portrayed elsewhere in the fresco, which covers all four walls of the small chapel, are Piero’s three daughters.
Numerous other representations of the family can be found in this brazenly contemporary take on a religious scene: the laurel bush is indicative of Lorenzo, and the Medici coat of arms can be found on the horses’ harnesses.
Bargellini, Piero. The Medici Palace and the Frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli. Translated by Gladys Hutton. Florence: Del Turco Editore, 1948.
Cardini, Franco. The Chapel of the Magi in Palazzo Medici. Trans. Mark Roberts. Florence: Mandragora, 2001.
Hartt, Frederick, and David G. Wilkins. History of Italian Renaissance Art. 5th ed. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2003.
Luchinat, Cristina Acidini, ed. The Chapel of the Magi: Benozzo Gozzoli’s Frescoes in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi Florence. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1994.