GOZZOLI, Benozzo
(b. ca. 1420, Firenze, d. 1497, Pistoia)

Procession of the Middle King (south wall)

Chapel, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence

The middle king, accompanied by his pages and squires, is gazing upwards while riding through a hilly Tuscan landscape. He may be gazing at the Star of Bethlehem, which was possibly located in the left part of the destroyed entrance wall. The king is considered to be a portrait of Emperor John VII Paleologus. The identification is based on the assumption that the depictions reflect contemporary events. In this case it is thought to be a reference to the Council of Ferrara-Florence, in which the Emperor took part in 1439.

The grouping of the figures, costumes and head types used in the painting of the Medici Chapel are closely derived from the panel painting from 1423 by Gentile da Fabriano which is now in the Uffizi in Florence. A close examination reveals that models exist in Gentile's famous work for both the apparently very portrait-like features and for the headdresses and crowns. For example, this is true of both the youngest and middle kings. The panel painting was commissioned by the political rivals of the Medicis; the Palla Strozzi family, and it prompted an attempt to take them on in the field of art. The result was the wall paintings in the Medici Chapel, which display a fairytale splendour: garments set with pearls, brocade materials, satin and silk, dresses with gold thread, gem-studded belts and lavishly decorated bridles.