Benozzo Gozzoli and the Chapel of the Magi: an exhibition in Florence on the artist and his connection to the city

The Museo di Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence presents until March 10, 2022 the exhibition Benozzo Gozzoli and the Chapel of the Magi dedicated to the Italian Renaissance master and his relationship with the city and the Medici family.

Until March 10, 2022, the Museo di Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence is hosting the exhibition Benozzo Gozzoli and the Chapel of the Magi, curated by Serena Nocentini and Valentina Zucchi. The exhibition, promoted by Città Metropolitana di Firenze and organized by MUS.E, is dedicated to Benozzo Gozzoli, master of the Renaissance, and his relationship with Florence and is closely linked to the exhibition venue in that inside Palazzo Medici Riccardi is the splendid Chapel of the Magi, masterfully frescoed on a Medici commission by Benozzo di Lese, better known as Benozzo Gozzoli, in the late 1550s.

The exhibition pays special attention to the Chapel of the Magi and aims to highlight the artist’s ties to the Medici family and to Florence, where the painter took his first steps. The exhibition itinerary consists of original works and multimedia creations, within which the public is invited to discover the life and work of the great master of the Italian Renaissance and to learn more about his pictorial evidence not only in the city but also in the entire Tuscan territory.

From a series of statements made to the Florentine Land Registry, in which the young man is mentioned indicating his age, it is possible to place Benozzo Gozzoli’s birth between 1420 and 1421. His family was originally from the piviere of Settimo, thus from the Florentine countryside, but had settled in Florence. While Benozzo’s first steps were taken at the side of his father, a farsettaio by profession, thanks to whom the young man developed a particular visual and tactile sensitivity to fabrics and decorated textiles, he soon turned to painting. The first document in which he signs himself “pictor” is the contract that in 1444 commits him for three years as Lorenzo Ghiberti’s helper in the making of the east door of the Baptistery of Florence. However, he had already worked alongside Beato Angelico: he was presumably his helper during work in the convent of San Marco in Florence between 1438 and 1443.

Benozzo Gozzoli undertook an intense and prolific artistic activity, especially in central Italy, but he always declared himself a “Florentine painter.” He then turns out to have been engaged in Rome in the Vatican and in Orvieto, still with Beato Angelico, and then settled in Umbria, where he produced numerous works and had many commissions (suffice it to mention the fresco cycle for the church of San Francesco in Montefalco), in Viterbo, and then again in Rome on the occasion of the celebrations for the appointment of Pope Pius II in October 1458. He certainly returned to Florence in 1459, when he began frescoing the Chapel of the Magi in the Medici Palace. Recognized and appreciated, after a five-year Florentine period he moved in 1464 to San Gimignano, for the cycle in the church of Sant’Agostino and other public and private works in the area, while from 1468 he was commissioned to fresco the Stories from the Old Testament on the north wall of the Campo Santo in Pisa. Here he remained for many years, surrounded by great notoriety and active in other numerous interventions in the area. He returned again to Florence in 1495, at the height of the Savonarolian climate, and two years later, on October 4, 1497, he died in Pistoia

The artist’s relationship with Florence is also made explicit in his own signature: “Magister Benotius florentinus” or “benozius florentinus” or “pictor de Florentia.” His rapprochement with the Medici family probably took place in his youth, when the painter followed Beato Angelico’s work in the convent of San Marco in Florence, finding its most accomplished manifestation in the Chapel of the Magi. It was a strong relationship that accompanied the artist throughout his career.

The exhibition gives utmost prominence to the Chapel of the Magi, skillfully frescoed by Benozzo in 1459 with the Journey of the Magi and the Garden of Paradise, converging in Filippo Lippi’sAdoration of the Child Jesus on the altar, where both his mastery of mural painting technique and executive finesse in rendering landscapes, characters, and details, interweaving sacred history, fairy-tale atmosphere, and contemporary relevance, stand out.

The exhibition also promotes connections with the Florentine and Tuscan territory, highlighting the places in the city and the territory in which Gozzoli worked and in which his artistic evidence is still visible, reaching as far as San Gimignano, Castelfiorentino and Pisa. The project sees the valuable collaboration of the Museum of San Marco in Florence, the Benozzo Gozzoli Museum in Castelfiorentino, the Civic Museums of San Gimignano and the Archdiocese of Siena-Colle Val d’Elsa-Montalcino.

Each exhibition room investigates one of these aspects, and in each room, around the chosen works, visual and multimedia narrative apparatuses are elaborated to make the most of the presence of the originals on display and at the same time to develop the fundamental themes of the exhibition in an innovative and scenographic form.

The museographic layout, created by Luigi Cupellini, aims to enhance the paintings and drawings on loan from prestigious national and international museum institutions. Among the paintings on display are the youthful Madonna of the Canopy with Angels (National Gallery, London), Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine, Pieta with St. John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene, St. Anthony the Abbot and St. Aegidius (Museo di San Marco, Florence), the Pilastrino with St. Bartholomew, St. John the Baptist, St. James the Greater, which is counterpointed by the mirror Pilastrino attributed to Domenico di Michelino (Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence), the Pala della Sapienza Nuova (National Gallery of Umbria, Perugia), and the Madonna of Humility between St. Andrew and St. Prospero and two angels (Archdiocese of Siena, Colle Val d’Elsa and Montalcino, exhibited in the Museo Civico of San Gimignano).

These are flanked by drawings by the artist and his workshop traceable to the Florentine years or related to the iconography of the Chapel, on loan from the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, and the Musée du Louvre in Paris, which will allow the public to delve into the artist’s graphic activity and his skill in rendering the human figure and naturalistic inserts, clearly visible in the Chapel of the Magi. L’Etude d’un cerf, tête baissée et tournée vers la gauche, on loan from the Louvre along with Portrait d’homme avec béret, are examples.

Documentary evidence makes explicit the artist’s close relationship with the Medici family, thanks to letters from the State Archives in Florence: famous are the epistolary exchanges between Benozzo, Piero de’ Medici and Roberto Martelli in the warm July of 1459 about the seraphim and cherubs just painted in the Chapel, which to the patron initially did not seem “apropos.”

Finally, thanks to the collaboration with the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, the codex testifying to the presence of the ancient inscription once present at the chapel, a “key to access” for understanding the entire iconographic program, is on display, preceded by an explanatory commentary: “The gifts of Kings, the prayers of the supernal spirits, the mind of the Virgin are the sacred things of the altar. Keep away, O profane crowd, your foot.”

Enriching the exhibition itinerary are art film supports, curated by Art Media Studio, which are useful for delving into further aspects of the painter’s biography and artistic activity. In the corner room initially conformed as a loggia and transformed into an interior room as early as the 16th century, animmersive multimedia installation is proposed, entirely dedicated to the Chapel of the Magi, in which visitors are guided in the exploration of the different themes and details.

Throughout the period of the exhibition there is also a rich calendar of visits, thematic insights, lectures, activities and workshops aimed at different types of audiences. Exclusive guided tours will be available for Unicoop Florence members, every Sunday at 10 a.m., and there will be a 2-for-1 discount on admission.

Finally, the exhibition is accompanied by the publication of a volume, published by Sillabe, with a series of contributions from leading Italian and international scholars, such as Cristina Acidini, Laura Llewellyn, Diane Cole Ahl, Alice Vignoli, and Stefania Bertini, in addition to the two curators of the exhibition.

“What better place to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the alleged birth of Benozzo Gozzoli?” say the exhibition curators. “Palazzo Medici preserves one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance, the Chapel of the Magi, commissioned by the prestigious Medici family, which, with this work, forever linked its name to Florence and in which Benozzo’s skills are also blended: the care for every minute detail, from the precious jewels to the rich damasks, from the trappings of the horses to the trees laden with fruit, from the flowering meadows to the multicolored plumage of the birds. A small but significant exhibition will accompany our guests into this fairy-tale and decorative world, characteristic of the artist, which made his painting full of special charm. The actual works present will dialogue with multimedia languages, inviting the viewer to discover details of intense and poetic reality. Recognizing that technology is a valuable tool for our living and not a goal means once again giving centrality to the person, as after all happened precisely in the Renaissance, when our Benozzo painted the Chapel of the Magi in this palace.”

For info and reservations:; call + 39 055 2760552 or write to

Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.

Tickets: Full 10 euros, reduced 6 euros; includes museum tour. Reductions 18 to 25 years old and university students. Free for ages 0 to 17, licensed tour guides, accredited journalists, disabled people and their companions, student groups and their teachers, ICOM, ICOMOS and ICCROM members.

Ph.Credit Simone Lampredi

Benozzo Gozzoli and the Chapel of the Magi: an exhibition in Florence on the artist and his connection to the city
Benozzo Gozzoli and the Chapel of the Magi: an exhibition in Florence on the artist and his connection to the city

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