Watch in video format above!
Cosimo de Medici (the Elder) commissioned the architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo to build the Medici Palace. It took 40 years to build.
The building has what I would call 'gradiated rustication' - that is to say, the stones become smoother with each floor. As you can see in the picture - the ground floor is heavily rusticated with protruding stone, the first floor is then slightly smoother but the stone is still evident, and the top floor is completely smooth.
The de Medici family opened up the ground floor and rented out the space under the arches for vendors. However, Michelangelo later changed these to the 'kneeling windows' which we see today. The first floor was used for the de Medici bank and the top floor was where the family lived.
The Inner Courtyard
The inner courtyard, also known as the 'Courtyard of the Columns', was also designed by Michelozzo. There is a colonnade of semi-circular arches supported by composite capitals, in pietra serena, (see glossary below).
Above each of the arches are alternating medallions of the Medici arms (balls) and mythological subjects, relating to the Medici collection, and windows matching those of the exterior, (see photos above and below).
Through the archways, you can see niches on one side and inscriptions in Baroque frames on the other walls. The niches are filled with busts and other statues from the de Medici collection. However, most of the inscriptions are from the later owner, Riccardi.
The palace courtyard housed many of Cosimo de Medici's commissioned artworks, in particular the famous 'David' by Donatello, one of Cosimo's favourite artists. Inside were further displays of his patronage, for example Fra Filippo Lippi's 'Annunciation' and the 'Seven Saints'.
Although it was private patronage, it would have been seen by many a popentate, as de Medici's advice was extremely sought after.
Colonnade: a row of columns
Composite: a mix of an Ionic and Corinthian order capital (see my post on columns)
Capitals: The ornate top part of the column.
Pietra Serena: 'serene stone', the most expensive and sought after stone at the time.
Popentate: members of the Papal Senate, and other political figures.