Star-studded historical banquet Medici: Masters of Florence focuses on one of the world's most significant lineages: the Medici family. The sumptuous drama stars Dustin Hoffman as the patriarch of the Italian dynasty and Richard Madden (otherwise known as Game of Thrones' Robb Stark) as the son with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The eight-part first season depicts the Medicis' influence on the political and social climate - a role so substantial that they pretty much single-handedly ushered in the Renaissance era. So without further sycophancy, it’s time to meet the mesmeric individual players in Medici: Masters of Florence.
Giovanni de’ Medici
Born to a middling family, Giovanni used his wits and smarts to grow a banking fortune like Italy had rarely seen. He was easily the richest man in the nation by the time of his death, while his political, social and artistic influence was unparalleled.
As the nature of Giovanni’s death isn’t set in stone, the creators of Medici chose to thicken the drama and have the patriarch murdered, and for his son to carry around the secret. Speaking of his son…
Cosimo de’ Medici
Regarded as the main innovator of the first Medici dynasty, Cosimo took the baton from his father and ran it in new directions. He was the de facto leader of Florence - “king in all but name” - and used the democratic political climate to his advantage, not even holding office half the time so as to seem one of the people.
But no matter which way you cut it, most weighty decisions were made within the Medici home. Using his father’s great wealth, Cosima matured his father’s patronage of the arts and architecture, and went on to oversee a range of important advances, including the building of the first public library.
Lorenzo de’ Medici
Younger brother of Cosimo, Lorenzo (Stuart Martin) was a prominent Italian banker who also happened to be the ambassador to Pope Eugene IV. Previously based in Venice, Lorenzo eventually joined Cosimo to ensure the Medici Bank was running smoothly.
Lorenzo founded the Popolani – guilds of skilled artisans that raged against the feudal powers of the day and were ultimately successful in removing them of their political rights.
Contessina de' Medici
Marrying into the Medicis through her husband, Cosimo, Contessina (Annabel Scholey) remained united with the family until her death at 73 years of age, outlasting her famous husband by 10 years.
Her status as the Medici matriarch led to her own brand of political sway, whereby she fixed tax benefits for groups she supported. She also had a hand in sanctioning and organising the marriages of notable Florentines.
Piero de' Medici
Cosimo’s son wasn’t the luckiest man in Florence, despite becoming the de facto ruler of the city. Bedridden with gout during much of his life, the young Medici earned the unfortunate nickname Piero the Gouty, which seems an unnecessarily cruel method of remembrance. Luckily, he was still able to conduct his business from his bedroom-cum-office.
Adding insult to injury, Piero was the target of a pair of coups – one, he was able to shirk due to forewarning and the other, which fizzled. Thankfully, he was able to carry on the artistic patronage traditionalised by his father.
So there you have it - just a few branches of the exhaustive Medici family tree, others of which we will surely encounter throughout this multi-generational epic.
Watch Medici: Masters of Florence Thursdays at 9:40pm on SBS.
Missed the last episode? Watch it at SBS On Demand right here: