21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 27 October 2003
This book is a truly remarkable and magnificent piece of scholarship that places Cosimo d'Medici clearly within the culture of his age. I continually dip into it nearly three years after my partner bought it for me for christmas after it first came out. It is not always easy, but always rewarding. I particularly find that the stress on seeing the man in his own time and in his own terms and that of his compatriots is a necessary counter to the view of ideology simply being a mirror to cynical self interest. But apart from the sociological analysis, there are the descriptions of Florentine society and culture: the confraternities and festivals, the intellectual and cultural perspectives of the general population, the artists, philosophers and the religious orders. The illustrations are beautifully reproduced, and discussions of the symbolism and reasons for the commissions of the paintings, sculpture and architecture give a detailed and deep insight into the life of the times. A must for anyone truly interested in this historical period.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2008
This is a long, dense read which rewards all effort. It re-establishes Cosimo and his contemporaries in the context of their own times, showing the daily reality of Christian life with particular reference to popular culture. Too often viewed as rich, powerful, self-serving merchants, Cosimo and other patrons are shown to be men concerned with spiritual life, who kept commonplace books filled with quotations from Christian authors, who sought advice from wise and holy men. Kent's portrait of the city and its people is fresh and surprising. Although Cosimo eludes us as a character - he knew how to be private - he emerges from this study as worthy of the title "Pater Patriae". Throughout the work, Kent quietly and deftly puts previous biographers and historians in their place, showing what a mistake it is to view the past through the lens of our own ideologies. The common view of Cosimo as a cynical manipulator of government to his own ends, and hiding it with a cloak of religious imagery, is shown to be the product of the Risorgimento and Marxism. To dismiss his patronage of religious buildings and art as buying a ticket to heaven is a mistake. He sincerely felt the need to give his wealth back to God and the cynical view that this is hogwash reflects more on the dismissers than the dismissed. Kent's approach is rational and wise. She neither romanticises nor exaggerates. She just allows the man to emerge from a painstaking depiction of his background. A first-rate contribution to studies of the period which, it is to be hoped, puts the record straight once and for all.