I am migrating most of my travel journals to Daveno Travels. This is an excerpt from my second international trip in 2011, where I returned to Florence.
This fresco is among my favorite Renaissance works for its color, subject matter and intricate detail. It visually stunning for the minute detail Gozzoli went to in depicting the clothing, jewelry and horse trappings of the time. I never thought I would see it outside of an art book. And yet, here I stood, just inches from it. Nothing could have prepared me for the visceral impact of seeing it in person.
“The Journey” portrays a processional celebrating the Christian Epiphany, with the Magi and their retinue represented as the members of the Medici family and other political and cultural nobles of the time. In addition to the portraiture, the fresco bears other references to the Medici family, including the colors and elements of their heraldic device (red and blue, red bezants and groupings of three white feathers.) The villas in the background suggest the Medici country estates. There are also scenes of various hunting parties, with symbology attached to some of the animals, and which makes a very lush and somewhat exotic landscape.
It is thought that this work commemorates three separate events – the Council of Basel in 1439 which was called to unite the Latin and Greek Churches and to deal with the Turkish threat (which would ultimately lead to the fall of Constantinople in 1453); the celebration of the Epiphany in 1459, that Cosimo was patron and benefactor to, and in which a very young Lorenzo Medici played one of the roles during the reenactment festivities; and the celebration held in Florence later that year to honor Pope Pius II…