Monday, February 5, 2024

The Case of the Missing Gold

Annamaria on Monday

The Gozzoli Chapel in the Palazzo Medici-Ricardi in Florence has, to my way of thinking, more gorgeousness per square inch than almost any other place on earth. I have gone to bask in its glory many times, most recently a week or so ago.

This last visit was notable because I finally found out what happened to the gold that p should be in the but can’t be found. 

You see, the splendid frescoes on the walls of the tiny room portray the Adoration of the Magi: the kings from the East who traveled to worship the newborn Christ child.  They came, the legend tells, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  On one of my early visits, sometime between 1973 and 83, my husband David and I began to study to images detail, looking closely at the flora and fauna, the costumes of the retinues of the kings, the poses of the horses. 

 Somewhere along the way, we found the gifts borne by two of the pages. The frankincense:

Given by the king known as Caspar:

The Myrrh:

Given by Melchior:

But search as we might, on many visits, we never could find the gold. Then, on this latest visit, I was telling a friend about this conundrum, and the docent who was standing near the door chimed in and solved the mystery of the missing gift of gold.

At some point, after the work of art was completed, a wrong-headed person in authority decided to add a larger door to the chapel. Here it is on the right in this photo.  The mural on the south wall was cut to make way for the door.      

In the process of doing so, they sacrificed a piece of the fresco the used to cover the entire width.  Who would do such a thing????

Balthazar is still there:

And looking gorgeous:

But the gold that one of his pages must have been carrying is nowhere to be found.

I, for one, see its disappearance as one of worst crimes of missing gold imaginable! 


  1. Well, at least the mystery is solved. Bringing the heinous perp to justice may be harder though.

    1. You know, Michael, that we both have written stories that end, as happens too often in real life, with the truth revealed, but justice still elusive. As you say, knowing the truth is a whole lot more satisfying than wondering what went wrong! AA

  2. One of the few times referring the matter to a committee might have resulted in a better outcome.

    1. Too true, David. I would like to think there would have been at least one sane participant. It’s a tribute to Gozzoli’s masterpiece that it survived the mutilation and remains splendid. AA

  3. Sorry to comment a day late, Annamaria, but I wanted to tell you that I love this chapel, too. I visited for the first time in my early twenties, and since Florence isn't SO far from Bern, I've been able to visit it a number of times since. But I never noticed the missing gold (although I have grieved over the missing chunk of fresco). Thanks for pointing that out to me.

  4. Thank you,Kim. Those of us who are lucky enough to go back from time to time have the luxury of glorying in all the marvelous details. The birds, for instance.

  5. Sis, your post made me realize the influence the frescoes on those walls had on the work of one my favorite modern artists, Thomas McKnight.