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Online Course

Deepen your knowledge and expand your horizons by registering for an online, interactive art history course taught by Elaine Ruffolo.

Upcoming 8-week course begins on Wednesday, January 19th:

The Medici:

Bankers to Popes



Please register with an email address you can check.

You will receive an informational email from closer to the first class. If you have not received an email by January 10th, please let us know.

Registered students can access supplemental class information and recordings here:

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Course description
At its height Renaissance Florence was a center of
enormous wealth, power, and influence. A republican city-
state funded by trade and banking, its often-bloody political
scene was dominated by rich mercantile families, the most
famous of which were the Medici. This course will follow
the family’s dominating influence on the politics, economy and cultural history of Florence beginning in the late 14th century with the rise of the dynasty under the Giovanni di Bicci to the first decades of the 16th century under the Medici Popes. Particular attention will be paid to the legendary Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo il Magnifico and their role in shaping politics and culture of Renaissance Florence.
The role of the patron in determining the ultimate appearance of works of art and architecture will be given primary consideration in this course. The Medici are therefore considered a test case for understanding the importance of patronage for the history of
Renaissance art. This is best examined through the Medici’s continued patronage of certain artists over extended periods of time. The works of artists such as Brunelleschi, Michelozzo, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, and Raphael, all of whom produced
significant numbers of works for the Medici, will therefore be a main focus of the lectures.

Suggested readings:
Cesati, Franco. The Medici: Story of a European Dynasty. Florence, 1999
Hibbert, Christopher. The Rise and fall of the House of Medici, 1990
Paoletti, John T. and Gary M. Radke. Art in Renaissance Italy, 4th ed., London, 2011.
Martines, Lauro. April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici, new ed. London,

January 19
Migrants and Survivors: The Rise of the Medici

By the second half of the thirteenth century Florence was the wealthiest Commune in Tuscany. As is often the case, the stimulating effects of economic developments and the power of capital worked well together, and the city prospered; and with prosperity came a
flourishing of the arts.
Topics to be considered: The beginnings of Florence at the dawn of the Renaissance, economic disaster of the 14 th century, the first Medici.

January 26
The Fortune 
Giovanni di Bicci and Cosimo (1426-1433)

The Medici family began to emerge and, in particular, the man who may be called the founder of the dynasty: Giovanni di Bicci. His son was Cosimo who would become heir to Giovanni’s fortune and leader of the Medici party.
Topics to be considered: Giovanni as banker, his political role, marriage ties and patronage of the arts (Brunelleschi and Michelozzo). Cosimo’s role of head of the family and his exile.

February 2

For Honour and Profit - Cosimo the banker (1434-1464)

At the core of Cosimo’s spectacular rise to power was the success of the Medici bank. This class will look at Cosimo’s consolidation of power and how he changed the mold of Florentine politics. His vast fortune made him one of the richest private individuals in Europe and he used it to provide propaganda for his cause.
Topics to be considered: Return from exile, consolidation of power and patronage of the arts (Fra Angelico and Donatello).

February 9
Succession - Piero the Gouty (1464-1469)

Ever the rigorous merchant, trustworthy and scholarly, Piero proved himself to be an excellent successor to Cosimo. He married well and produced heirs who would continue the Medici legacy which included his sons Lorenzo and Giuliano (1469-1479).
Topics to be covered: synthesis, conspiracy, Medici women, an eye towards Rome and murder.

February 16
Strategies of Medici Patronage

Special Guest lecturer: John T. Paoletti, Professor Emeritus of Art History at Wesleyan University.

February 23
Lorenzo the Magnificent (1480-1492)

The attribute “Magnifico” was given to him by his contemporaries. In fact, because of his diplomatic genius, he was able to make Florence prosper, and his extraordinary mercantile policy made it the “new Athens”.
Topics to be considered: diplomacy, the Neo Platonic society, Lorenzo’s children, Savonarola, the new Republic. Lorenzo’s influence on late 15 th century patronage (Ghirlandaio, Verrocchio, Botticelli, Michelangelo).

March 2
Medici Popes - Giovanni (1513-1521) and Clement VII (1523-1534)

The election of Leo X to the Pontifical throne in 1513 and Clement VII in 1523 was joyously received in Florence. A new “golden Age” with the Medici in power in Rome boded a new golden age for both Rome and Florence.
Topics to be considered: the papal court of Leo X, Martin Luther, Charles V’s conflict with Francoise I, Sack of Rome. Papal patronage (Raphael and Michelangelo).

March 9
Review and optional Final Exam.

The Medici:

Bankers to Popes


COST: $395 or €325 per person 

($180 discounted fee to additional household members)

WHEN: Eight week course on Wednesdays starting on January 19th at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm in Florence (1:00-2.30 pm in New York, 12:00 to 1:30 pm in Chicago, 11:00 am to 12:30 pm in Denver and 10:00 to 11:30 am in Los Angeles).


If you miss a class, it will be recorded and available for viewing at your convenience.

Should you wish to pay with Zelle, please click the button below and enter the $395 registration fee, using my email