This chapel is in the Palazzo Medic Riccardi, one of the many Medici palaces that dot Florence. I had seen this painting in books, but nothing could prepare me for the visceral impact of seeing it in person.
The “Journey of the Magi” wraps around almost the entire chapel. This fresco is among my favorite Renaissance works for its color, subject mater and intricate detail, and I never dreamed to see it outside of an art book. And yet, here I am, just inches from it. It brings me to tears almost immediately.
Painted between 1459-61 by Benozzo di Lese (who also collaborated with Ghiberti on “The Gates of Paradise”), it portrays a processional celebrating the Christian Epiphany, with the Magi and their retinue represented as the members of the Medici family and other notables of the time.
At the end of this exhibit there’s an interactive display that displays a smaller version on an IMAX screen. When you stand on the sensor and physically point to areas on the screen, it zooms in and provides text detail for that section of the painting. I was there for about 45 minutes, just pointing and reading. Afterwards, I could identify each of the faces in this work, but sadly, those notes, as well as my notes from the rest of this palazzo, have disappeared from my original journals.
The exterior of this palazzo is filled with sculptures by various artists, set among richly decorated archways and niches in the courtyard. Again, my notes have gone missing but the photos and my memories remain …