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110 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring this with you to Florence!
I recently visited Florence and was so charmed by the historical city that I picked up Hibbert's book upon my return. How I wished I had it while I was actually in Florence!

Hibbert's account of the Medici - from Cosimo, Pater Patriae, to Anna Maria - the last of the Medici - was at times matter-of-fact, at times, greatly moving. One needs to look within the...
Published on December 12, 2005 by B

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252 of 265 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Depends on what you are looking for
Hibbert does a very good job in providing a really antiseptic, dispassionate, unbiased view of the life and times of the Medici largely from the perspective of empire building and the power struggles it brought. Unfortunately I found the book rather lifeless in that it did not present a moving account of the great Medici family, their trials and tribulations and most...
Published on December 26, 2001 by wiseprof


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110 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring this with you to Florence!, December 12, 2005
This review is from: The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Paperback)
I recently visited Florence and was so charmed by the historical city that I picked up Hibbert's book upon my return. How I wished I had it while I was actually in Florence!

Hibbert's account of the Medici - from Cosimo, Pater Patriae, to Anna Maria - the last of the Medici - was at times matter-of-fact, at times, greatly moving. One needs to look within the descriptive lines in order to feel the emotional part of this great family's history, whose decadence, indulgence, and duty made them one of the most famous familes in history.

I enjoyed this book so much that I even read all of the footnotes; most of the information regarding the more famous works of art commissioned by the Medici is hidden in these footnotes. Take the time to read them; you will not be disappointed!

Novice art historians should take a copy of this book along on their next trip to Florence -an index in the back tells the reader where to find many of the surviving art pieces that still reside in Florence -whether they are at the Uffizi Gallery, in the Bargello, or in the Pitti Palace, etc. In addition, the author tells you the addresses where some of the major Florentine families once took residence - if only I had the book - I might have wandered around Florence and looked for everything!

This is definitely a great read for someone who wants to view history through the eyes of a most infamous family; anyone who has taken a liking to Florence and who wishes to learn more history about this beautiful city will likely find this to be a good book!
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252 of 265 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Depends on what you are looking for, December 26, 2001
By 
wiseprof "wiseprof" (Phoenix, Arizona United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Paperback)
Hibbert does a very good job in providing a really antiseptic, dispassionate, unbiased view of the life and times of the Medici largely from the perspective of empire building and the power struggles it brought. Unfortunately I found the book rather lifeless in that it did not present a moving account of the great Medici family, their trials and tribulations and most importatnly, their interest in the arts. I primarily wanted to read more about the connections between the great renaissance artists and the Medici family since theirs is perhaps one of the most important families to have influenced art and culture in those times. In that respect this book was a serious let down. There are but passing references to the association between the Medicis and Michaelangelo, Ghirlandaio and a few others - not a long drawn examination as was expected.
What the book does offer is a fairly detailed description of the machinations of the Medici family - escpecially the accounts about Cossimo Sr. at the founding of the family and Cossimo II toward the end of the dynasty. The description of war and political strategies are noteworthy. The value of the book depends on what you are looking for. IF you want to know more about the art and culture angles, you are better advised to look elsewhere.
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50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, Focused History, May 11, 2004
By 
Scott Schiefelbein (Portland, Oregon United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Paperback)
Christopher Hibbert's "The House of Medici" is an excellent history of the Medici family, but only as far as it goes. For many readers who aren't as familiar with the details of the Renaissance or of Florence, the tight focus of the book will lead to numerous questions and open issues.
Focusing primarily on the personalities who built the House of Medici into the juggernaut it became (particularly Cosimo and Lorenzo the Magnificent), Hibbert unquestionably brings certain aspects of the period to life. In particular, one gets an appreciation for the delicate balancing act Cosimo managed to pull off -- at times ruthless, yet willing to share power and refrain from putting himself too far forward in the perpetual contest among the leading families. This trait was lacking in the firebrand Lorenzo, whose refusal to at least allow the other noble families the appearance of being major players generated the massive resentment that culminated in the assassination attempt that wounded Lorenzo and killed his beloved brother.
At the apex of their power and influence, the Medici were the prime movers and shakers of the age. While describing Cosimo and Lorenzo, the pillars of the family, Hibbert's tale is almost inspirational. When describing the lesser lights that through sheer accident of birth came to rule this mighty house (and guided its decline), "House of Medici" becomes less inspiring but no less entertaining -- several of Hibbert's descriptions of the nincompoops are hilarious.
Again, the book would have benefited from providing a bit more analysis beyond the personalities of the Medici family. When contrasted to the extreme contextual details provided by Lauro Martines in "April Blood," his work about the plot to kill Lorenzo, the weaknesses of Hibbert's narrow focus come through.
Better suited for those already familiar with the Renaissance and medeival Florence than the neophyte, this book is nevertheless an entertaining read. For an exhaustive history of Florence, look elsewhere.
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable history, May 10, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Paperback)
I read this book when I was writing my dissertation around the subject. It was a pleasant surprise after absorbing so many dry text books - it reads like a story. The carnivals, artists and daily trials of life in Renaissance Florence are vividly described in this book. A detailed history and a fascinating insight into one of the richest areas of Italian history.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flying through several centuries of history, June 29, 2003
By 
Algernon D'Ammassa (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Paperback)
Hibbert offers a fast-paced and entertaining history of the Medici dynasty that ruled Florence - officially and unofficially - for a few centuries, and are often given credit for the emergence of the renaissance in Italy.
The Medici family is full of fascinating characters: from the savvy patriarch Cosimo de Giovanni to the charismatic Lorenzo il Magnifico to Pope Leo X ("God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it!") or the bloodthirsty Gian Carlo or the spitfire bride of Grand Duke Ferdinando II, to the sad, heirless Gian Gastone, survived solemnly by the stoic Anna Maria, the last of the Medici.
A history of the Medici is also a history of Florence, but Hibbert does not delve into historical detail, instead taking an anecdotal approach that whips the readers through complicated alliances, wars, and economic conditions without much context. The book focuses more on the forces of personality in the family and the internal intrigues of the Signoria, the Vatican, and the Duchy, than on the changing conditions of europe or italia in general.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Travel Book, January 3, 2003
This review is from: The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Paperback)
I purchased The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall by Christopher Hibbert because I was planning a trip to Florence and wanted to know about the city's history. As it happened I read the book during the stay and had a chance to relate the places and people that were discussed with what I was seeing at the time. In this vein, the book was excellent. It certainly puts much of what was seen when traveling into perspective.
However, as pure history, the book is interesting but superficial. The most substantial portion of the book is reserved for Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo the Magnificent. By far Cosimo, who was the Medici who built the family fortune and allowed the family to expand its influence through out Europe, was the most interesting. For the other Medicis, Hibbert gives the basic facts with little insight as to the hows and whys. When he moves onto the Medici' as actual rulers of Florence the book really takes a dive. Duke Cosimo I, who expanded Florence to the height of its political and territorial strength is superficially discussed.
Hibbert seems to be very sympathetic to the Medici's and wants to give them much of the credit for the art and culture of the Renaissance. That colors the perspective of the book and explains the focus of the book.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great read, but a couple of flaws reduce its value., August 19, 2000
By 
Elsie Wilson (Aberystwyth, Cymru) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Paperback)
A wonderful story, fascinating and well written, the tale of the founders, insofar as any one family can be so called, of the Renaissence. The Medici have fascinated me ~ as no doubt many others ~ for a long time; i am interested to learn as much of them as i can. This book has arranged that. I do have a few quibbles with it, though, which detracted from my enjoyment of it. First, it really ought to come equipped with a family tree, chart, some kind of description to show the various relations between the family members. I was reduced to flipping back and forth, at times, to try and remember who a certain person was. Even Hibbert himself is not entirely certain, it would seem, as he confuses Lorenzaccio di Pierfrancesco and Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco, who have to be of separate generations, if the rest of the line is to make sense. Secondly, the notes, while interesting, are also frustrating, as they give information about the various palazzi and artworks of Florence; the information is really intrusive in this manner: It would have been better if integrated into the text ~ though this would be a different, lesser, book ~ or left out entirely; Hibbert at times seems not to know if he is writing a history or a guidebook to Firenze -- the latter i didn't need. In the main, however, i really enjoyed this book, and would have liked it even a little longer, had Hibbert given more information about the later generations it would have been better (he doesn't even mention Leo XI, who was a Medici, for example).
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting facts but little flavor and no depth, September 23, 2002
By 
Robert J. Crawford (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Paperback)
THis is a travel book and not really an historical book. I enjoyed reading it and it went very swiftly, but I was left unsatisfied with both the level of detail and the author's lack of interest in delving below the surface. Indeed, I would have wanted a book at least twice as dense.
That being said, the facts of the Medici family are competently covered, from their rise with Cosimo the great banker to their dying out several centuries later in the most squalid and humorous decadence. From rich behind the scenes wielders of power, we watch their fortunes rise and fall until they become petty autocrats in the time of Louis XIV. THese facts were interesting and the writing is competent if unoriginal.
Alas, the author does not ask any probing questions and shows little ability to stimulate further inquiry. He barely mentions what constituted the Renaissance, let alone asked what might have caused it, etc. We also get no real insight into why the Medicis behaved in the manner that they did - what their characters and motivations were - and the historical forces they reflected. THis is appalingly superficial.
Take this book with you if you are going to Florence and want to know who those Medici people are in the paintings, but go for something else if you want to understand one of the greatest flowerings of human knowledge and artistic creativity since the fall of the ROman Empire.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting text on the Medici family of Renaissance Italy, January 28, 2000
By 
This review is from: The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Paperback)
This is a great read for those seeking insight into the dynasty of the Medici. It is a great book for the casual reader, especially as an introduction to Italian Renaissance society. The family's rise and subsequent fall are chronicled over several centuries in this intriguing history. In addition, it provides a great deal of content concerning some of the period's most famous artists and politicians.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The House of Medici" by Christopher Hibbert: Seeds of the Renaissance, February 19, 2006
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This review is from: The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Paperback)
On January 16, I reviewed the book "The Medici Effect" by Frans Johansson. In his work on innovation, Frans uses the Medici family of Renaissance Florence as template for the kind of enabling patronage that draws together talent from a variety disciplines, arts and sciences - with the ultimate impact of empowering extraordinary levels of creativity and innovation.

As I read Johansson's book, I was struck by the fact that I knew precious little of the history of the Medici and the story behind them emerging as the greatest patrons of the arts the world has ever known. Despite the fact that I have visited Florence, Italy, I still felt that my knowledge of that world needed to be enhanced. As someone who often alludes to Renaissance Men, I felt that it behooved me to learn more about the time and place that spawned the first generation of prototype Renaissance Men - Leonardo, Michelangelo and their ilk.

A quick Google search led me to Christopher Hibbert's classic book on the history of the Medici - "The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall." Hibbert does a nice job of leading the reader through a Grand Tour of several generations of the Medici - bankers to the Papacy who investments a large portion of their largesse in supporting artists and scholars of many stripes. A nice set of endnotes provides a parallel tour through the architectural history of all of the sites mentioned in the body of the text.

While I will not take the time for a full review here, I do want to share some insight that I gleaned early in the book that shed important light on how Florence emerged as the haven for genius that turned it into the magnet that it remains today for people who want to experience the glory of its Golden Age.

In 1438, Cosimo Medici arranged for a Council to be convened in Florence that would attempt to repair the breech between the Roman Church and the Orthodox Church centered in Constantinople. The Council ultimately failed to bridge that theological chasm, but had more salubrious effects on the reputation of Florence as a center for the arts and scholarship.

"Yet for Florence, as Cosimo had foreseen, the Council had happier consequences. As well as profiting the trade of the city, it was an important influence on what was already being spoken of as the Rinascimento ["Renaissance"]. The presence of so many Greek scholars in Florence provided an incalculable stimulus to the quickening interest in classical texts and classical history, in classical art and philosophy, and particularly in the study of Plato, the great hero of the humanists, for so long overshadowed by his pupil, Aristotle." (Page 68)

This book helped me to fill in some missing pieces in my understanding of how the Renaissance emerged from the Dark Ages that had beclouded and adumbrated Europe for so many centuries. I recommend it as a useful resource for those, who like me, are not serious students of history, but who desire to know more than "the average bear" about the intellectual history of Western Civilization.

Enjoy.

Al
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The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall
The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall by Christopher Hibbert (Paperback - May 19, 1999)
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