The exhibition (04.11.2015 - 14.02.2016) will explore the fascinating life of Matteo Palmieri, the man who commissioned the 'Assumption of the Virgin'; the powerful, wealthy and aristocratic circles he moved in, with special attention given to his friendship with the Medici rulers of Florence and the King of Naples; and will provide new insight into the painting he intended to serve as his legacy.
Palmieri, who is portrayed kneeling at the lower left of the panel, was a true ‘Renaissance Man’ who trained in his native Florence as an apothecary, studied philosophy and rhetoric with the top humanist scholars of the period, wrote histories, biographies and poetry and held almost every position within the Florentine government including that of 'Gonfaloniere di Giustizia', the city’s highest political honour.
Palmieri’s study of classical literature including Cicero, Plato, Quintilian, Plutarch and Aristotle and his participation in the intellectual debates popular among civic humanists of the period, shaped his view of civil society and inspired him to write a treatise entitled 'Della Vita Civile' (On Civic Life, 1439) which describes the ideal citizen. He was also an avid reader of the poets Boccaccio and Dante and wrote an epic poem in imitation of Dante’s 'Divine Comedy', entitled the 'Città di Vita' (City of Life, 1465), which similarly describes the poet’s journey through Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Palmieri commissioned Botticini to illustrate the deluxe manuscript of his poem and, several years later, selected him to decorate his funerary chapel. Together, Palmieri’s civic treatise and Dantesque poem reveal his conceptions of civic duty and the nature of Heaven and Paradise, all of which are reflected in the dramatic composition of Botticini’s 'Assumption of the Virgin'. (Text: National Gallery London)