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Strozzi, Money, Power and Art in Florence

Strozzi, Money, Power and Art in Florence
05 December 2016 0 Comment

Under the guiding hand of Palla Strozzi his family wealth rivaled the Medici in 14th century Florence.

Florence had become the banking capital of Europe and with its increased wealth came great artists that produced great art. Once it was a medieval backwater tucked away on the shores of the Arno River in Tuscany, lorded over by the more powerful and affluent Siena. While it’s true Siena invented “double accountancy” it was Florence who ran with the invention and turned itself into the richest city in Europe through banking; allowing the Florentines to dominate the world of trade and business 500 years before modern communication methods were invented!

This growth was nurtured by families whose names grace not only the worlds of commerce and trade but gave birth to the Florentine Renaissance. Where would have great artists, architects, sculptors and philosophers of the Renaissance been without the continued patronage, over generations of the Pazzi, the Strozzi, the Albizzi, the Peruzzi, the Capponi, the Ruccelai and the indomitable Medici families? Great art has always been married to great wealth and in Florence that marriage lasted for centuries.

The bankers of Florence whose wealth and influence touched every aspect of the heartbeat of the city molded the economic and artistic status of Florence; often described as the cradle of the Renaissance (although Venice might have something to say about that and I would agree) and in doing so changed the course of western cultural history.

Some would argue that the end of this remarkable relationship between the creation of wealth by great banking families and the creation of great art by great artists began to unravel in 1497 when Savonarola, the radical, fundamentalist Dominican preacher,  put a torch to a towering ‘bonfire of the vanities’ in Florence? Put to the flame was an inestimable amount of glorious Florentine art and riches that was lost forever. The Medici banking empire was on the wane under the indifferent eye of Lorenzo whose passion for artists and their work has never been replicated in the west since.

European countries began to turn away from central banking, placing their wealth in their own hands. This began the eventual demise of Florence, its artists and the economic engine that drove the greatest age of artistic expression since the Greek Hellenistic period.

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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