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Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florenceby Tim Parks
Synopses & Reviews
Their name is a byword for immense wealth and power, but before their renown as art patrons and noblemen the Medicis build their fortune on banking — specifically, on lending money at interest. Banking in the fifteenth century, even at the height of the Renaissance, meant running afoul of the Catholic Church's prohibition against usury. It required more than merely financial skills to make a profit, and the legendary Medicis — most famously Cosimo and Lorenzo (the Magnificent) — were masterly in wielding the political, diplomatic, military, and even metaphysical tools that were needed to maintain their family's position.
In this brisk and witty narrative. Tim Parks uncovers the intrigues, dodges, and moral qualities that gave the Medicis their edge. Vividly evoking the richness of the Florentine Renaissance and the Medicis' glittering circle, replete with artists, popes, and kings, Medici Money is a brilliant look into the origins of modern banking and its troubled relationship with art and religion.
"The Renaissance, so often seen as a clean break with the medieval past, was really an age of creative ambivalence and paradox. In this marvelously fresh addition to the Enterprise series, Parks, author of the Booker-listed Europa and a literary observer of modern Italian life, turns to Florence and to a particularly compelling contradiction. The spirit of capitalist enterprise that fostered cultural originality and underpinned patronage was accompanied by a Christian conviction that money was a source of evil and that usury was a damnable spiritual offense. In the space where this cultural conflict plays out, sometimes as stylized as one of Lorenzo Il Magnifico's tournaments, sometimes as life-threateningly fiery as Savonarola's sermons against worldly vanities, we find a world both akin to our own and almost incomprehensibly distant. Parks is a clear-eyed guide to the ambiguities of Florentine culture, equally attentive to the intricacies of international exchange rates, the spiritual neurosis about unearned income, the shocking bawdiness of Lorenzo's carnival songs and the realpolitik of 15th-century power. His prose is swift and economical, cutting to the chase. Like the Medici-commissioned funerary monument for the anti-Pope John XXIII, the effect is startlingly vibrant, resembling 'those moments in Dante's Inferno when one of the damned ceases merely to represent this or that sin and becomes a man or woman with a complex story, someone we are interested in, sympathetic towards.' (May) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Vividly evoking the richness of the Florentine Renaissance and the Medicis' glittering circle, replete with artists, popes, and kings, "Medici Money" is a brilliant look into the origins of modern banking and its troubled relationship with art and religion.
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