Piero di Cosimo, Madonna and Child with Saints Lazarus and Sebastian (ca. 1480-85), oil and tempera on panel, 165 × 123 cm (64 15/16 × 48 7/16 in.), Chiesa dei SS. Michele Arcangelo and Lorenzo Martire, Montevettolini, Scala / Art Resource, NY.

One simply doesn’t associate Florentine Renaissance art with whimsical invention and bizarre grotesquery. We know all too well about that city’s devotion to proportion, equilibrium, and symmetry. Anyone who has visited the city will have passed—but probably not noticed—the façade of Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni. The lovely Piazza Santa Trinita, which it faces, functions as a gateway to Via Tornabuoni—and far more familiar destinations:...

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