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

Procession of the Youngest King (east wall)

Chapel, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence

The sequence of pictures begins with the youngest king. On the horizon his retinue is moving down from the mountains. At the highest point is a small medieval fortress, possibly Jerusalem, where the Three Kings first went. However, the architecture of the complex is reminiscent of the Medici villa in Cafaggiolo, which Cosimo de' Medici commissioned Michelozzo to build in 1451 in the style of a medieval castle.

The young king, who is looking towards the old king on the opposite wall, was thought to be a portrait of Lorenzo de' Medici. However, it is not probable since at the time the work was created, he was just ten years old. Rather, in these features Gozzoli is repeating a portrait formula which he also uses in other places, especially the angels' heads. Furthermore it would be unusual to portray a member of the Medici family in so prominent a position. Benozzo was aware that such portraits belonged at the edge, not in the centre of the composition. The portraits of the Medicis can, therefore, be found at the front of the young king's retinue. At the head of the group, behind king, rides Piero de' Medici (1416-1469), who commissioned the frescoes.

Benozzo has also immortalized himself in the densely crowded retinue in close proximity to the "familiari". We know this from the inscription of his name on the red cap. In recent research the two youths in front of Benozzo have been identified as Lorenzo and Giuliano Medici. By having themselves depicted in the procession of the Three Kings, the Medicis were demonstrating both their political and their financial power. They had themselves depicted at the end of the procession, as part of the youngest king's retinue, and not as part of the retinue of the oldest king, who is nearest their goal.