Taking place in and around Florence, Italy in the 1400's, the story follows Luca from his birth as the bastard child of a wealthy merchant to his young life with the family of a fabric dyer the merchant placed him with, on to his time as a young monk, through the time he eventually found himself apprentice to Donatello. Throughout his life, Luca always struggled with intense lust, which didn't really work too well when he was a monk. He eventually marries a lovely young girl named Allesandra and has several children, building for himself and his family a fine life in the employ of Donatello. Things start to decay when the youngest son of the dyer, Agnolo, begins hanging around Donatello's shop hoping for some spare change. The boy is striking in appearance, with his soft blonde curls and he is quite feminine in appearance and most sure of himself. He immediately catches the eye of Donatello and eventually becomes a fixture around the shop or bottega, as it is called. When Donatello's benefactor, Cosimo Medici, also a political powerhouse and staunch supporter of the arts, requests a bronze statue of young David slaying Goliath, Donatello becomes obsessed with creating the perfect piece and Agnolo is to be his model.
All the while, Luca knows Agnolo to be trouble and worries that Donatello is becoming obsessed with the teen (and eventually, the man), especially during a time when sodomy is a crime punishable by harsh penalties, up to and including the offender being put to death. Luca, himself, has risen through the ranks to become one of Donatello's most trusted employees, even being placed in charge of the accounting for the commissions of art. Yet Luca's own young son also struggles with homosexuality, and Luca and his wife are constantly having to arrange for his release from prison, even sometimes relying on the assistance of the powerful friends of his employer. Even as Luca sees his own son going down the path that his adopted brother, Agnolo, has embarked upon, he can't help but resent Agnolo, both for their shared familial connections and his captivating hold on Donatello. Is Luca protecting his employer, friend and mentor from his "brother" who is not his brother, or does he harbor secret feelings for Donatello himself?
The Medici Boy is a love story about forbidden passions in a time of tremendous political and religious upheaval. It portrays the very human emotions of a man held in the highest regard by the art world, and how those emotions can cause him to become a political pawn by those wishing ill upon the powerful men with whom he is aligned. I first became interested in The Medici Boy shortly after reading Immortal by Traci L. Slatton as it takes place in a similar time period and references a lot of the same contemporaries of Donatello. However, while Immortal made me cry and tore at the heart of me with its story, The Medici Boy didn't quite have the same effect on me. It's a good story and an interesting read, but it is first and foremost focused on the homosexual relationship of Donatello and his young model and Donatello's tendencies to obsess, whether it be over people or his works of art in progress. If you have an interest in the life of Donatello, check out this book. Just be aware that a lot of the references and verbage are done in what would have been the style of the time, so expect the interjection of lots of Italian words.