The Fall of Florence
In 1527, the city of Florence was one heck of a mess. The Florentines wanted the ruling family, the Medici, OUT and that included the Medici upstart, Pope Clement VII (Giulio de Medici) and all his clan. To punctuate their hatred, citizens tore threw the streets destroying the art that had once made Florence the Renaissance epicenter. Some genius even hurled a bench through a window and broke the David’s arm. 1
During the melee, the 13 year old Duchess of Florence, Catherine de Medici, rode through the streets of Florence on a donkey with the screams of an angry mob calling for her death. Catherine had few friends or family to protect her from her terrible fate. Her mother, Madelaine de la Tour d’Auvergne, a French Bourbon Princess, had died giving birth to her. Her father, Lorenzo II de Medici, the Duke of Urbino, had died from Syphilis weeks after Catherine's birth.2 Catherine represented everything the people had come to hate in the power-hungry banking family. Her bulging eyes and thick cheeks didn’t help any. Most contemporary sightings reported that Caterina Maria Romula di Lorenzo de' Medici looked every inch a Medici (and that was not a compliment). If the people could destroy the David, what was to stop them from killing this unattractive heiress to the Medici fortune?
There were certainly some creative suggestions as to what to do with her.
A. Strip her naked and exposed her on the city walls as target practice.
B. Place her in a brothel to spoil her marriage value.
C. Lock her up in a convent
What would be Catherine’s fate? Stay tuned for Part II for the answer…
Some Strange Art Coincidences
(1 ) We can thank the great painter and architect, Vasari for saving the arm. He hid David’s arm until things calmed down and then reattached it. Michelangelo was later convicted of taking part in the revolt when the Pope’s forces tore through Florence (more on that in Part II). Michelangelo did look pretty guilty since he was one of the masterminds behind the city’s fortification. But all ends well and we can thank the Prior of S. Lorenzo for saving Michelangelo's life. He hid the Michelangelo out until the Medici cooled their heels and forgave the wayward artist.
(2) Niccolo Machiavelli had honored Lorenzo (Catherine's Father) by dedicating The Prince to him. The Prince became one of Catherine's favorite light reads. Her critics later referred to it as "Catherine's Bible."