The central kneeling figure in the Botticelli’s Uffizi Adoration of the Magi, and wearing the ermine-lined, red robe is Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici, son of Cosimo de’ Medici the Elder, the figure kneeling in front of the new-born Saviour. To the right of Piero is his first-born son Lorenzo de’ Medici.
This Medici trio shared a common ailment – gout. Such was Piero’s condition that he was often confined to bed and became known as Piero the Gouty, conducting his business and political affairs from his bedroom for much of his time. It is said that his death in 1469 was a result of gout and lung disease.
Botticelli identifies Piero with two references to his illness, the hat at his feet, and the spiked crown on the ground to his right. The hat is shaped as a snail, a slow mover and invairably confined to his abode. The crown of thorns, placed next to Lorenzo, represents the transfer of Medici affairs to his eldest son, and the heriditary painful condition of gout.
Piero’s distinctive show of ermine is one of several connections made by Botticelli in this painting to Leonardo da Vinci. More on this in a future post.